Avian Response to Restoration of Urban Tidal Marshes in the Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey

by Alison Seigel,¹ Colleen Hatfield,² and Jean Marie Hartman³

¹Rutgers University, Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution, 1 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
²California State University, Department of Biological Sciences, 400 West First Street, Chico, CA 95929 (address at time of research: Rutgers University, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901)
³ Rutgers University, Department of Landscape Architecture, 93 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901


Tidal marshes located in urbanized regions have experienced a long history of degradation. As a result, restorations have frequently been conducted to improve the habitat quality of these marshes. Few studies, however, have investigated the effect of restoration on avian community composition in urban tidal marshes. To this end, we conducted avian surveys for one year prior to restoration and three years after restoration at Harrier Meadow marsh, in the Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey. After restoration, avian species richness and abundance increased, while evenness decreased, mostly due to large flocks of sandpipers sporadically visiting the marsh during migration. Prior to restoration, generalists were by far the most abundant foraging guild, while they shared dominance with mudflat and open-water foragers after restoration. Avian surveys were also conducted for three years after restoration at Mill Creek marsh, also in the Meadowlands. Though the restoration goals were the same for Harrier Meadow and Mill Creek, the two marshes had distinct habitat compositions after restoration, and this allowed us to examine avian response to variation in habitat availability. In all three years of monitoring after restoration, Harrier had a greater avian density and higher species richness than Mill Creek; however, avian abundance at both marshes was dominated by the same three foraging guilds. Evenness did not differ across post-restoration years or between marshes. Avian abundance showed a decreasing trend during the three years of post-restoration monitoring; however, further monitoring will be necessary to determine the long-term trends in the avian community.

Key words: avian community structure, foraging guild, Hackensack Meadowlands, marsh restoration, Phragmites, restoration monitoring, tidal marsh, urban