Birds of Troy Meadows
By: Len Sunchild
Troy Meadows is a very famous place for birds, birdwatchers, and wildlife photographers.
There are a number of publications regarding the bird species of Troy Meadows, among them are two scholarly books on bird species, both sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. The most notable and available is Birds of the New York Area, by John Bull, Harper and Row, 1964 - See: American Bittern, Lest Bittern, Wood Duck, Virginia Rail, Sora, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Short-Billed Marsh Wren; page 107, pg. 108, pg. 133, pg. 159, pg. 174, pg. 286, and pg. 330.
In Birds of the New York Area, John Bull reports that in 1947 the Urner Bird Club reported 13 nesting pairs of American Bittern, 10 nesting pair of Least Bittern, 25 breeding pair of Virginia Rail, 14 breeding pair of Sora, and 8 pair of Short-Billed Marsh Wren at Troy Meadows.
In mid-fall, 1960 over 1,000 Wood Ducks were observed in an all-day canoe trip through Troy Meadows, "estimated 700 in one flock and 300 in another." Regarding the 1960 Wood Duck report, John Bull comments, "Penetration by boat into the heart of this swamp is the best method to cover such a vast area. By comparison, a count from the boardwalk would produce only a small fraction of this number."
The 2013 Audubon Christmas bird count reported 43 Red-headed Woodpeckers, carefully counted at Troy Meadows; possibly the highest count on record in any one location in New Jersey; "it obliterates its previous high count of 20 Red-headed Woodpeckers set in 2001."
From 2012 to 2014, Wildlife Preserves commissioned BR Environmental Services to survey wildlife and wildlife habitat at Troy Meadows. Among all the threatened and endangered species reported in the winter/spring of 2014, BR Environmental located several nesting pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers in old dead trees along the Whippany River and within the woodland islands at Troy Meadows.
Other threatened and endangered avian species recently sighted and reported at Troy Meadows are - Savannah Sparrow, American Bittern, Least Bittern, and Black Crown Night Heron - all sighted in Troy Meadows, Par-Troy (2012), a Barred Owl nest cavity in Troy Meadows, Par-Troy (2012), Red-Shouldered Hawk nest in Troy Meadows, E. Hanover (2012), Red-Headed Woodpecker nest cavities in Troy Meadows, E. Hanover and Par-Troy (2014), American Bald Eagle nests in Troy Meadows, Par-Troy, and Great Blue Heron rookery in Troy Meadows, East Hanover.
Considering all the rare and endangered species of fauna and flora at Troy Meadows, unfortunately the only avian species the public seems to care about are the American Bald Eagles nesting at Troy Meadows. The only birds the newspapers care to write about are the eagles at Troy Meadows and the eagles got top billing during the planning and construction of the PSE&G Susquehanna-Roseland electric transmission line project, while other rare species were ignored.
Besides the three eagle nests at Troy Meadows (some active and some abandoned) there is also a pretty substantial Great Blue Heron rookery in the woodlands along the Ash Swamp in Troy Meadows.
As Wildlife Preserves' current campaign to remove invasive species of plants from the meadows and woodlands at north-end of Troy Meadows continues and its wetland mitigation bank project progresses, the wildlife habitat at Troy Meadows will improve and resident and migratory avian populations of marsh birds and waterfowl should increase.
Birders are encouraged to submit photos and reports to WildlifePreserves.org and threatened and endangered species sightings to NJ DEP.