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Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge

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Seasonal ChecklistBird Finding

Location:  Southeast Knox County, via Kelly Lane, off I-40, Midway Road exit (Exit 402), Knox County, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 13 (Southern Ridge and Valley); BCR 28 (Appalachian Mountains)
Tennessee IBA Site Map - Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge
Geographical Coordinates: 
Seven Islands--Lat. 355705N  Long. 0834203W
Elevation Range:  840' - 1080'
    840' Seven Islands
Size:  410 acres
USGS 7.5' quad:  Boyds Creek

Description:  "In the late 1990's the Seven Islands Foundation, a non-profit land conservancy founded by the Pete Claussen family, had a vision of 400 acres of alluvial bottomland and rolling uplands on Kelly Bend (a bend in the French Broad River between river miles 15-18) in East Knox County being developed as a nature sanctuary. Their vision was to acquire the property, develop the refuge, and offer it for public enjoyment. That vision became reality in 2002 with an agreement placing the land under jurisdiction of Knox County's Department of Parks and Recreation, with joint management by the Seven Islands Foundation and Knox County. A permanent conservation easement protects the refuge, and three years of native grassland restoration, habitat diversification and riparian and wetland enhancements are underway."
   " With cooperation from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the 325 acres of fescue-dominated fields are being converted to native tallgrass and shortgrass prairie with additions of some perennial wildflowers." These warm-season grasslands include grasses of big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, and side-oats gramma grass that are mixed with other plant species like partridge pea and perennial wildflowers to enhance native wildlife habitat." In all, in 2005 there were 339 acres of early successional habitat with 262 acres under warm-season grassland management, 24 acres in pasture, and 53 acres not yet planted in warm-season grasses. (pers. com. Wayne Schacher)
    "Six thousand seedlings of native trees have been planted...to improve nesting habitat, cover, aesthetics, soft and hard mast food production and shoreline stability in riparian zones. Wetland communities will be improved with a shallow-water impoundment and with plantings of wetland species around the 1.5-acre upland pond. Wildlife food plots will supplement native food sources and placement of artificial nesting and roosting structures provides habitat elements otherwise limited on the refuge." A water control structure was installed in 2005 to create wet meadow habitat along the river by flooding part of the grasslands.
    The site includes three miles of French Broad River frontage, several wooded islands, an intermittent stream, rock bluffs, alluvial bottoms and rolling uplands, woodlands, rock outcrops, boat launch, and hiking trails. It provides many recreational and educational opportunities for residents of the surrounding areas. Partnerships have  established the refuge as an outdoor classroom and include school and civic groups; the University of Tennessee departments of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; The Knoxville Zoological Park; Ijams Nature Center; and The Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. (Schacher, W. H. 2005; Jim Giocomo)

IBA Criteria:  3

Ornithological Importance:  Restored native warm-season grass fields, a rare habitat in Tennessee, provide breeding habitat for obligate grassland species. Numerous fence-rows provide nesting habitat for other early successional specialists such as Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeak.  Harriers and one to two Loggerhead Shrikes are regular in winter. Restored riparian corridors provide habitat for wading birds and duck species. There are 3 nests of Great Blue Herons on the upstream side near the Bald Cypress trees of the large island in the French Broad River. In the 2005 breeding season, a pair of Bald Eagles, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, fledged two young from the smaller island in the river. A Northern Saw-whet Owl, a Tennessee Threatened species, was banded November 6, 2005.
    Currently there are 24 Wood Duck nest boxes--4 in the large wooded island, 4 around the wooded upland pond, and 16 in riparian zones along the French Broad River and stream corridor.
    A monitoring program of winter grassland species was conducted in 2003-2004, with about 150 sparrows banded during the winter periods--(2003, 64 birds of 7 species) and (2004, 88 birds of 7 species) (Jim Giocomo).
    A MAPS program was established in 2005. A total of 387 birds of  30 species were banded (Jim Giocomo, Charlie Musie).
    Note 1. Almost 100 acres are comprised of warm-season grass fields that are attractive to grassland species such as Northern Harrier, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, and winter sparrows.
        Northern Harrier:  A Tennessee In Need of Management species, is regularly seen in winter with up to 6 individuals in one day (2002-2005) (Jim Giocomo).
        Sedge Wren: August 21, 2005--Five established territorial singing males with one territory with possible female. No nesting detected (Jim Giocomo).
        Grasshopper Sparrow:  In 2004, there was a minimum of 18 territories and five nests found. In 2005, there were 15 territories and two nests monitored. The species is present only in the summer (Jim Giocomo).
        Eastern Meadowlark:  A common year-round species within Tennessee, it may be declining due to land use. Here there are 4-6 territories, but territories are difficult to determine because they are large and overlapping (Jim Giocomo).
        Winter Sparrows:  Numbers of sparrows during winter and migration periods can be good. Examples are: October 18, 2003--Field Sparrow (30+) and Song Sparrow (50+); April 10, 2004--10 species of 247 individuals among them Field Sparrow (56), Swamp Sparrow (32), White-crowned Sparrow (76), and White-throated Sparrow 36; November 6, 2004--6 species of 201 individuals among them Field Sparrow (60+), Song Sparrow (100+), and White-crowned Sparrow (23) (David Trently).
            Banding totals for sparrows in the Winter Bird Monitoring program (February-April) 2003-2004 are (first number 2003, second number 2004):  Eastern Towhee (1-1), Field Sparrow (breeds) (11-9), Savannah Sparrow (12-8), Song Sparrow (breeds) (20-34), Swamp Sparrow (15-36), and White-throated Sparrow (5-0).

Site Criteria



Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data



Habitat:  Grassland (See Note 1 above.)

B, W, Year-round




6, 7

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 (Jim Giocomo) 7-Others (Charlie Musie, David Trently, Wayne Schacher)

Ownership:  Knox County Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Seven Islands Foundation
    Contact:   Wayne Schacher, 865-457-4355, whschacher@natreserv.com

Conservation Concerns:  Major concern is the introduced predators of dogs and cats from the surrounding homes. Potential concern is water pollution, residential development, and damming.

Management Program:  Seven Islands has a written management plan and the Seven Islands Foundation provides the services of a paid land management consultant to help establish the native grasslands.

Submitted by:  James Giocomo, 274 Ellington PSB, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-4563, 865-974-8749, jgiocomo@utk.edu

Additional Contributors:  Charlie Musie, David Trently, Wayne Schacher

Schacher, W. H. 2004. Return of the Native Grasslands. Hellbender Press, VII:4 (June).

Disapproved as an IBA site:  February 2006--Yes 4  No 3

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