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Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge

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Hatchie NWR

Note: The Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge and the Hatchie Scenic River to the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge should be considered as one IBA. However, due to lack of documentation, the Hatchie Scenic River section between the two national wildlife refuges is not included at this time (January 2006).

Location:  On the Hatchie River west of  I-40 to include all of the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, east to the Hatchie River east of Bolivar at US 64, Tennessee 15, Haywood County, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 04 (East Gulf Coastal Plain); BCR 27 (Southeastern Coastal Plain)
Tennessee IBA Site Map - Hatchie NWR.bmp (80006 bytes)
Geographical Coordinates: 
    Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge--Lat. 353001N  Long. 0891230W
    Swan Lake--Lat. 353121N  Long. 0891712W
    Big Eddy--Lat. 354411N  Long. 0891412W
    Cutoff Lake--Lat. 353057N  Long. 0892412W
Elevation Range:  262' - 375'
    295' Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge
    282' Swan Lake
    285' Big Eddy
    262' Cutoff Lake
Size:  11,556 acres (Hatchie NWR) + Hatchie River east of the refuge to US 64
USGS 7.5' quad:  Brownsville, Jones, Sunnyhill, Turnpike

Description:  Located entirely within Haywood County, this refuge established in 1964 transverses 23.5 miles of the south bank of the Hatchie Scenic River. It is bisected by I-40 and TN 76. About 90% of the refuge lies within the floodplain of the Hatchie River. The headwaters of the Hatchie in Mississippi and 33 major tributaries are channelized. However, here the Hatchie River is not, representing the last river of its type in the Lower Mississippi River Valley that still functions under near normal wetland cycles. Habitats consist of open water 270 acres (9 oxbows and 10 created lakes), bottomland hardwoods 9,400 acres, upland forest (primarily loblolly pine, red cedar, and hardwood planted prior to 1964 when the area became a refuge) 435 acres, croplands 850 acres, and warm season native grasses 50 acres.
    Major objectives of the refuge include providing forest habitat for migratory waterfowl, neotropical migrants, and other birds; provide nesting habitat for Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers; provide recreation and environmental education for the public; and maintain representative flora and fauna characteristic of bottomland hardwood forest of Western Tennessee.

IBA Criteria:  3, 4a

Ornithological Importance:  Mississippi Kite, Cerulean Warbler, and Swainson's Warbler, all In Need of Management species in Tennessee, occur in the bottomland hardwoods found throughout the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. This habitat type is large and intact, not only supporting these species but a full complement of other neotropical species dependent on the habitat type for breeding. Year-round species as well benefit.
    Note 1. The 9,400 acres of naturally flooded bottomland hardwood forest represents a rare and exceptional large intact tract of woods of this type in Tennessee. For its size, the complement of species and number of individuals (both neotropical and year-round) that breed here is significant. A five-mile walking survey of Powell Road in June 2002 among neotropicals included Yellow-billed Cuckoo (13), Eastern Wood-Pewee (16), Acadian Flycatcher (72), Great Crested Flycatcher (25), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (84), White-eyed Vireo (24), Northern Parula (18), American Redstart (14), Prothonotary Warbler (50), and Indigo Bunting (62). In this same survey, some year-round species included Red-bellied Woodpecker (19), Downy Woodpecker (18), Pileated Woodpecker (11), Carolina Chickadee (26), Tufted Titmouse (33), White-breasted Nuthatch (15), Carolina Wren (32), and Northern Cardinal (20) (Welton 2002).
        The number of Mississippi Kites, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, that use the area is small in comparison to the populations along the Mississippi River floodplain in Tennessee. The Hatchie River birds represent a finger extension of the Mississippi River population that follow the narrow habitat that the river affords. Even though numbers are not large, breeding birds away from a major breeding area should be beneficial for population stability. On June 2 (2 individuals) and June 4 (3 individuals) were seen around Swan Lake (Welton 2002). On May 13, 2005, a motorized trip from near the Big Eddy of the Hatchie NWR to Highway 100 north of Bolivar yielded 5 Mississippi Kites evenly spaced along the river (Melinda Welton, pers. com.).
       Three Cerulean Warblers, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, were detected in walking surveys along Powell Road and environs, June 2-3, 2002 (Welton 2002). In a population assessment study in June 2004,  6-8 singing males were heard. On May 13, 2005, a Cerulean Warbler Project for Private Lands point count survey was made by motor boat on the Hatchie River from Highway 100 north of Bolivar to the east side of the Hatchie NWR near Big Eddy. Point counts were in potential habitat separated by at least a half mile. A playback tape of the species was used. No Cerulean Warblers were detected in the 23 points (Melinda Welton, pers. com.).
        Nine Swainson's Warblers, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, were detected in walking surveys along Powell Road and environs, June 2-5, 2002 (Welton 2002). In a population assessment study in June 2004, 3 singing males were heard (Welton 2004). On May 13, 2005, 8 Swainson's Warblers were detected at 8 of 23 points during a Cerulean Warbler Project for Private Lands survey by motor boat on the Hatchie River from Highway 100 north of Bolivar to the east side of the Hatchie NWR near Big Eddy. The 23 points were separated by at least a half mile in potential Cerulean Warbler habitat (Melinda Welton, pers. com.).
   Note 2. Waterfowl numbers are highly variable and consist primarily of Mallards. "Tennessee Mid-Winter Surveys"2001-2005 totals are:  2001 (1,534), 2002 (487), 2003 (2,323), 2004 (390), and 2005 (25,859).  The average number of waterfowl for this five-year period is 6,118 birds (1% of the statewide wintering total).

Site Criteria



Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data



Habitat:  Bottomland Hardwood Forest (See Note 1 above.)

B, SM, FM, Year-round



2002, 2004-2005

7a, 7b


Waterfowl (See Note 2 above.)






Season1   B = Breeding, W = Wintering, SM = Spring Migration, FM = Fall Migration 
Source 2  1-Atlas Breeding Birds of Tennessee 2-Breeding Bird Surveys 3-Christmas Bird Counts
4-Point Counts 5-Refuge Counts 6-Personal observations 7-Other (a-Welton 2002 b-Welton 2004)

Ownership:  U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  Refuge Manager, Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, 6772 Highway 76 South, Stanton, TN 38069, 731-772-0501, 731-772-7839 (fax), hatchie@fws.gov

Conservation Concerns:  Serious concern is the alterations in the surrounding landscape are causing drastic changes in flooding patterns and depositing of inordinate amounts of silt and sand in refuge timberlands. Intensive farming practices (cotton) and wind deposited soils from the surrounding highlands combined cause erosion rates to soar as high as 120 tons/acre/year. Current timber losses amount to about 100 acres per year.

Management Program:  None.

Submitted by: Melinda Welton, 5241 Old Harding Road, Franklin, TN 37064, 615-799-8095 (home), 615-210-8095 (cell), weltonmj@earthlink,net

Additional Contributors: Randy Kipley, Reelfoot@fws.gov

Welton, M. 2002. Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge Powell Road Bird Survey.
Welton, M. 2004. Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge Cerulean and Swainson's Warbler Population Assessment Pilot Study Report, June.

Approved as an IBA site:  January 2006--Yes 7  No 0

This page was last updated on 02/19/06.