Important Bird and Birding Areas
Bear Swamp Natural Area

IBBA Site Guide

Cumberland County
Coordinates: N 39.27948
W 75.07829
Site Map
Delaware Bay: New England / Mid-Atlantic Coast

Area: 11,682 Acres     

Habitat: Deciduous and mixed forested wetlands and uplands

Site Description: The site is located in Downe Township between the Millville Wildlife Management Area and the Glades Wildlife Refuge. The site contains two extensive hardwood swamp forests, Bear Swamp West and Bear Swamp East, which together make up the Bear Swamp Natural Heritage Priority Site. These sites are designated by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as the state’s most significant natural areas. Bear Swamp West is owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust and contains rare, old-growth forest with trees dating back up to 500 years. Bear Swamp East Natural Area is owned and managed by NJDEP’s Office of Natural Lands Management.

IBA Criteria:
Conservation Concern – State-endangered (B)Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk
Conservation Concern – State-threatened (W)Bald Eagle
Conservation Concern – State-threatened (B)Barred Owl
Regional Responsibility Species - BCR 30 Forested Wetland (B)Acadian Flycatcher, American Black Duck, Chimney Swift, Fish Crow, Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Mallard, Wood Duck, Yellow-throated Vireo
Regional Responsibility Species - BCR 30 Mixed Upland Forest (B)Acadian Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Blue Jay, Broad-winged Hawk, Carolina Chickadee, Common Grackle, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Gray Catbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Flicker, Scarlet Tanager, Tufted Titmouse, Whip-poor-will, Wild Turkey, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo
Bald Eagle in Flight
Bald Eagle in FlightJim Gilbert
Birds: Bear Swamp is home to the oldest continuously occupied Bald Eagle nest in the state. Likely the largest wintering Bald Eagle roost in NJ, as many as 30 individuals roost in the old growth trees and forage in the tidal wetlands. This site also provides breeding habitat for state-endangered Red-shouldered Hawks, state-threatened Barred Owls and state-special concern Cooper’s Hawks. Bear Swamp is one of two sites in southern NJ where Pileated Woodpeckers breed. This site is also important for breeding forest interior and forest-dependent birds. A Doppler Radar migration study, “Oases Along the Flyway,” conducted by the Research Department of New Jersey Audubon Society has confirmed this site as critical stopover habitat for migrating songbirds during spring and fall migration.

Conservation: While most of Bear Swamp is protected as open space, activities threatening the integrity of the site include the expansion of adjacent sand-mining operations and extensive off-road vehicle (ORV) use. Increased patrol of the area by conservation officers is needed to deter uncontrolled ORV traffic at Bear Swamp. Protection and restoration of privately-owned parcels adjacent to Bear Swamp is necessary to prevent residential development from reducing habitat quality and availability. This can be accomplished by promoting landowner incentives for protecting and managing habitat and by prioritizing parcels for acquisition. Natural Lands Trust, a regional nonprofit conservation organization, owns a significant portion of this IBA and is currently negotiating to purchase and protect more of the adjacent lands. Monitoring of Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) has been conducted within the Bear Swamp Natural Area for 15 years. Although there are fluctuations within populations from year to year, Bear Swamp appears to be a stable community for forest breeding birds.

Additional Information: Site Report
Bear Swamp Natural Area
Bear Swamp Natural AreaU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service