Important Bird and Birding Areas
Maurice River Corridor

IBBA Site Guide

Cumberland County
Coordinates: N 39.30591
W 75.01372
Site Map
Delaware Bay: New England / Mid-Atlantic Coast

Area: 31,424 Acres     

Habitat: Tidal salt marsh with portions of mixed woods, open water and riparian habitat

Site Description: This site includes the Maurice River, its associated riparian habitats, Union Lake and three major tributaries; the Menantico, Manumuskin and Muskee Creeks. The open waters of the Maurice River are flanked by extensive tidal salt marsh and large tracts of undeveloped forested wetland and upland forest. The Maurice River drains the southwestern portion of the Pinelands and serves as a valuable link between the Pinelands National Reserve and the Delaware Estuary. The brackish wild rice marshes in the upper portion of the site are the largest stands in New Jersey. The site includes the Maurice River North and the Maurice River South Natural Heritage Priority Sites, designated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as some of the most significant natural areas in NJ. In 1993, the Maurice River and its tributaries were recognized as a Wild and Scenic River by the National Park Service. This designation protects the waters of many rivers throughout the country from inappropriate uses. The river boasts a rich history dating back to the Lenni Lanape Indians who depended on the river’s resources for survival. Its extensive maritime history includes oystering, crabbing and other fisheries.

IBA Criteria:
Conservation Concern – State-endangered (B)Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier
Conservation Concern – State-threatened (W)Bald Eagle
Conservation Concern – State-threatened (B)Barred Owl, Osprey
Regional Responsibility Species - BCR 30 Salt Marsh/Wetland (B)American Black Duck, Clapper Rail, Marsh Wren, Osprey, Salt-marsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Virginia Rail, Willet
Significant Congregations (W)Waterfowl
Significant Migrant Stopover/Flyover (FM, SM)Shorebirds
Significant Migrant Stopover/Flyover (FM)Raptors
Long-term Research/Monitoring
Purple Martin pair
Purple Martin pairMichael Hogan
Birds: For over 20 years, the Maurice River has supported several pairs of breeding Bald Eagles and has hosted NJ’s most significant wintering Bald Eagle population since the 1970s. Large numbers of Ospreys, Northern Harriers and Barred Owls breed here. The Maurice River’s wild rice marshes harbor one of the largest fall populations of Soras in the Atlantic Flyway. Large concentrations of Purple Martins gather in the salt marsh alongside the river before they begin their southward migration. Raptors also use this site as an important stopover area during fall migration. Wintering waterfowl includes Northern Pintails, Mallards, Green-winged Teals and American Black Ducks. As many as 6000 Dunlins winter in the Maurice River Corridor. Each spring, the mouth of the river becomes a critical staging area for as many as 15,000 migratory shorebirds and a key staging area for Northern Pintails awaiting their migration north.

Conservation: While much of the Maurice River Corridor is in conservation ownership, residential and industrial expansion of Millville and Vineland continue to fragment and destroy the remaining unprotected habitats. Additional fragmentation has resulted from the widening of roads, creation of power lines and conversion of forests to nursery operations. Nearby sand and gravel operations further degrade forested wetlands and uplands and have the potential to expand their facilities. Additional threats include the common reed (Phragmites australis), an aggressive invasive plant species which has replaced much of the beneficial marsh vegetation along creek channels, and Canada Geese herbivory, a major threat to the river’s wild rice marshes. Oil spills occasionally affect this region as it contains the nation’s third largest petrochemical port. Protection and restoration of privately-owned lands adjacent to the Maurice River can be accomplished by promoting landowner incentives for protecting and managing habitat and by prioritizing parcels for acquisition. Many organizations have been working to protect and enhance the Maurice River Corridor including the Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, NJDEP’s Green Acres Program, State Agricultural Development Committee, Farmland Preservation, NJ Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and NJ Conservation Foundation. These organizations are responsible for successfully acquiring lands for open space, improving habitat, conducting outreach to landowners about conservation opportunities, affecting policy and implementing effective monitoring programs. Migratory bird surveys and winter raptor and waterfowl surveys, for example, have been conducted here for almost 20 years.

Additional Information: Site Report
Maurice River
Maurice RiverMichael Hogan