Nature Conservancy Restores Habitat for Warblers and Woodcocks at Queen's River Preserve

The Nature Conservancy today announced an effort to restore 12 acres of open shrub habitat on the Queen’s River Preserve in Exeter, Rhode Island.

Exeter, RI | January 09, 2014

The Nature Conservancy today announced an effort to restore 12 acres of open shrub habitat on the Queen’s River Preserve in Exeter, Rhode Island. The purpose of the project is to improve nesting and foraging areas for declining migratory bird species such as prairie warblers, blue-winged warblers, and American woodcocks. The work began on January 8 and will continue through March. The work will continue again during the winter months of 2015.

A 16 acre hayfield is surrounded by forest that has grown right up to the edge, overtopping and shading out a shrub community of high bush blueberry, northern bayberry, black huckleberry and mountain laurel. In some areas, there is little shrub understory due to encroachment by white pine. By pushing back the edge of the encroaching forest up to 200 feet, the Conservancy will restore a more natural, transitional shrub zone between the hayfield and the taller woods. Mechanical removal of the overstory is expected to promote stronger growth and fruit production by the shrubs and promote the regeneration of forbs, shrubs, and seedlings/young stands of oak within this strip. In addition, the generation of flowering plants and shrubs will benefit pollinator species.

“Improving wildlife habitat on our preserves is an important goal for The Nature Conservancy and it goes hand-in-hand with our land acquisition program,” said Terry Sullivan, State Director of the Conservancy’s Rhode Island Chapter. “We’re eager to see the positive response from this work on the land and the birds,” he added.

The restoration project will be directed primarily along the west and east perimeter of the hayfield, clearing all trees approximately 200 feet from the field edge.

Prairie warblers, blue-winged warblers, and woodcocks are members of a suite of bird species that nest in shrubs or directly on the ground. All three species are found at the Queen’s River Preserve during the spring and summer, returning to Rhode Island each year from as far away as Central America. However, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, these species and other birds associated with early successional habitats – grasslands, shrublands, and young forests – are declining more rapidly than birds of any other habitat type in the eastern United States.

The population declines are attributed largely to the disappearance of the birds’ habitat, coming either as a result of suburban development or the reclamation of abandoned farm fields by forests. Prairie warblers, blue-winged warblers, and woodcocks are the Service’s three highest priorities for species recovery for early successional habitats in New England and the Mid-Atlantic Coast. The conservation and restoration of pitch pine/scrub oak barrens and shrublands are also top priorities of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (RIDEM) wildlife action plan for the state.

The Nature Conservancy has an agreement with a private contractor to perform the work. The project will be paid for with federal funds, provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. In addition, the Conservancy received technical assistance from RIDEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.

For safety reasons, the walking trails that encounter the work zone will be closed while the contractor is on-site. All other trails on the preserve will remain open during that time.

 For more information or to arrange a site visit or photo-op, please call:

Cheryl Wiitala, Preserves Manager, (401) 331-7110 x 25

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Cheryl Wiitala
Preserves Manager

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