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Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey, Biodiversity

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The Meadowlands are significant for concentrations of federal trust species including waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, anadromous and estuarine fishes, and diamondback terrapin (Day et al. 1999). The most species-rich vertebrate groups in the Meadowlands are fishes and birds. Eighty-eight Species of Special Emphasis (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1997) occur in the Meadowlands, primarily fishes and birds. Twenty state-listed endangered or threatened species occur there (Table 4). Forty-two species considered rare in the urban core of the New York metropolitan region, and 49 species rare in the New York Bight ecosystem, are found in the Meadowlands (Day et al. 1999).

A mammal survey conducted along the New Jersey Turnpike corridor prior to Turnpike expansion in the late 1980s and early 1990s provides much of the available information on mammal distribution within the Hackensack Meadowlands. A total of 16 species was found (NJTA 1986). A total of 12 species was found at Oritani Marsh in two studies in the 1980s and 1990s (Berger Group 2001).
Muskrat occurs throughout the Meadowlands (NJTA 1986). Kingsland Marsh, Kearny Marsh, Sawmill Creek WMA, and the marshes around Berry’s and Overpeck creeks are among the locations where muskrats are abundant (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Muskrat uses common reed marshes (NJTA 1986) as well as a variety of other wetland habitats. Brooks (1957) opined that the “unhealthy environment” of the Meadowlands reduced predation pressure by mammals and snakes, allowing muskrats to thrive. This large rodent may be considered a keystone species due to the changes it causes in the vegetation, soils, marsh topography, and animal habitats by its feeding and building activities. Muskrat lodges built of emergent vegetation may provide a substrate for nesting birds, especially geese and ducks (e.g. Kiviat 1978). Grazing by muskrats may be important in opening up common reed habitat by thinning or creating clearings. Grazing and digging may also increase rates of nitrogen mineralization in the soil, as occurs in cattail marshes (see Daiber 1982, Kiviat 1989, Connors et al. 2000). Muskrat effects on biogeochemistry may be important in the Meadowlands because of high nutrient levels and locally or periodically dense muskrat populations. Muskrat depredation of plantings was a problem in the Hartz Mountain mitigation project (Berger 1992).
Beaver (Castor canadensis) is not currently known in the Meadowlands (Anne Galli, NJMC, personal communication to KM, 2001); however, beaver expansion into tidal wetlands and urban-fringe areas in the Hudson Valley suggest the Meadowlands may eventually be colonized. Beaver could have large influences on ecosystems by selective feeding on certain plant species, construction of lodges, burrows, and canals, and local alteration of water levels.
Several mammals are found predominantly along road and rail beds, pipeline corridors, and other elevated areas as well as in the marshes and meadow habitats of the Meadowlands. In addition to muskrat, rodent species found in the Meadowlands include white-footed mouse, meadow vole, house mouse, Norway rat, eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus), and eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) (NJTA 1986). White-footed mouse was found around Berry’s Creek and Oritani marshes and in the area around Blackman’s and Cedar creeks (NJTA 1986). Meadow vole was found around Berry’s Creek and Oritani Marsh (NJTA 1986). The introduced house mouse and Norway rat are probably most abundant in developed areas and around landfills but have also been observed in marshes, including the Sawmill Creek WMA, Kearny Marsh, and Oritani Marsh (NJTA 1986). We expect that white-footed mouse and meadow vole are common and widespread in the Meadowlands. McCormick & Associates (1978) found meadow vole in common reed – marsh fleabane vegetation and probably meadow vole sign in a reed stand burned the previous year. Norway rat and house mouse have been prominently associated with landfills, garbage, buildings, and (presumably) farms in the Meadowlands. Norway rat has declined with the closing of many landfills (Quinn 1997). Seven captures of meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius) in Oritani Marsh (in cordgrass, reed, and “old field” habitat) resulted from a recent survey (Berger Associates 2001).
Gray squirrel was found at Berry’s Creek, Oritani Marsh, and around Blackman’s and Cedar Creeks (NJTA 1986). An eastern chipmunk was found near Berry’s Creek (NJTA 1986). Woodchuck (Marmota monax) is found in elevated areas where burrowing is possible, such as roadbeds (Quinn 1997) and the Paterson Lateral gas pipeline road (EK, personal observation). This species should be common on landfill cover, dredge spoil, and other sandy or gravelly fill soils.

Masked shrew (Sorex cinereus) and eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) were found along roads and the TransCo pipeline easements at Sawmill Creek WMA, Oritani Marsh, and the Berry’s Creek area (NJTA 1986). Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) has been observed near Berry’s Creek Canal, Blackman’s Creek, and Cedar Creek (NJTA 1986).

Eastern cottontail was found in the areas of Berry’s Creek, Oritani Marsh, Moonachie Creek and in the marshes around Blackman’s and Cedar Creeks (NJTA 1986). Cottontail sign was common in aster-ragweed meadow and in the margins of common reed marsh at the proposed Meadowlands Arena site (McCormick and Associates 1978). Cottontails were common around the edges of the Carlstadt-Moonachie site in spring 2001 where they were extensively browsing bark from sapling-size tree-of-heaven stems, and cottontail feeding on tree-of-heaven twigs was also seen on Laurel Hill in February 2002 (EK, personal observations). Although New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is almost indistinguishable from eastern cottontail in the field, it is unlikely that New England cottontail occurs in the Meadowlands because of its geographic distribution and habitat affinities; therefore we refer all Meadowlands cottontails to the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Eastern cottontail appears widespread and common in the Meadowlands (EK, personal observations).
Raccoon, opossum, and striped skunk are widespread in the Meadowlands, but often go undetected due to their nocturnal habits (Quinn 1997). Raccoon was abundant at Kingsland Marsh, Oritani Marsh and around Berry’s Creek (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Opossum was observed near Berry’s Creek and Moonachie Creek (NJTA 1986). A striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) was seen near Berry’s Creek (NJTA 1986); striped skunk and raccoon occur on the Carlstadt-Moonachie site (M.A. Thiesing, personal communication, 1998). Feral cats and dogs were also observed along roads, at landfills, and near developed areas in the Meadowlands (NJTA 1986). Uncommon mammals include red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and mink (Mustela vison) (Quinn 1997). Recently, a river otter (Lutra canadensis), once a common resident of northern New Jersey, was found at an old landfill on Overpeck Creek but was believed to have escaped from a nearby zoo (Quinn 1997). A harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) was observed in the Hackensack River by William Schultz, a staff member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center ca. 1 March 2001, and a harbor seal was also photographed in the late 1980s in Teaneck and reported in The Record (Hugh Carola, Hackensack Riverkeeper, personal communication to EK, 2002). An unidentified seal (probably a harbor seal) was photographed in Mill Creek 8 April 2002 (MERI, personal communication to EK, 2002). These are the only Hackensack River records we know of, although harbor seal occurrence has increased in the Hudson River in recent years (Kiviat and Hartwig 1994 and unpublished data).
White-tailed deer is rare in the Meadowlands where they are associated with remnant forests in northern areas (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000). The population explosion of deer in many areas of New Jersey and New York during the last three decades, however, suggests this species may become more common in the Meadowlands. Scats apparently of eastern coyote (Canis latrans var.) were found at Laurel Hill, and near the Cromakill, in 2002 (EK, personal observations); this species has also increased greatly in the Northeast. Other mammals that might occur in the Meadowlands but were not reported in the NJTA (1986) studies include short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda), Keen’s bat (Myotis keenii), small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) (US ACOE 2000). (Small-footed bat [eastern small-footed myotis] is ranked as G3 S1 U, or apparently very rare but poorly understood, by the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program.)
Two hundred twenty-five bird species are known to occur in the Meadowlands (Black 1970, Kane 1974, Wargo 1989). Wargo (1989) reported 52 bird species (39 wetland-dependent) at the Mill Creek marsh mitigation site in 1987 and 1988. Forty-seven species (38 wetland-dependent) were at the Sawmill Creek WMA (Wargo 1989). The TAMS bird study at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site (USACOE 2000) suggests the complexity of the Meadowlands bird fauna; even so, modifications of survey techniques and data analysis would likely have demonstrated greater species richness of birds and a larger number of rare species breeding at that site (see Kiviat 2000). A checklist of Meadowlands birds, with seasonal and abundance annotations, was compiled by NJMC (HMDC no date).
The large freshwater and brackish wetlands interspersed with upland areas provide a wide range of habitats that support large populations of resident, migrant (spring and fall), breeding (summer), and wintering birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds occur in large numbers during spring and fall migrations, and waterfowl are also abundant in winter, which makes the Hackensack Meadowlands one of the critical sites identified by Federal and State agencies and non-governmental organizations for conservation of these bird groups (Dunne et al. 1989, Kane and Githens 1997, Quinn 1997, Day et al. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al. 2000). In addition, there are important breeding populations of ducks. Several species of hawks and owls use the area as a feeding and wintering ground. One of only 2 pairs of northern harriers (Endangered) confirmed breeding in the urban core of New York City nests in the Meadowlands (Day et al. 1999). Extent of available reed marshes may limit harrier breeding as this appears to be an area-sensitive species (Kiviat et al., submitted b). Many species of songbirds migrate through the Meadowlands, and both resident and Neotropical migrant songbirds breed in the marshes and remnant upland forests. Waterfowl, rallids, many shorebirds, gulls, terns, and several raptors and songbirds are dependent upon a variety of wetland habitats in the Meadowlands. The distribution, seasonality, abundance, and habitat requirements of these groups are outlined below.
Table 3 provides an outline of data from several sources on the distribution and seasonal use by bird species for which the Meadowlands provide important habitat. However, several shortcomings in presenting such data should be pointed out. First, not all areas within the Meadowlands have been sampled equally. Table 3 shows where and when species have been present but does not identify conclusively where they were absent. Gaps in the table may represent gaps in our knowledge, and more study is needed. Nonetheless, the table suggests which species are widespread and which areas are important habitat within the Meadowlands.
Waterfowl: The Meadowlands is designated an area of special concern under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (Day et al. 1999). Waterfowl includes diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and geese. The Meadowlands are important for wintering, breeding, and migrating waterfowl. These species use both freshwater and brackish marshes. Many ducks that breed in the Arctic regions winter in the coastal and inland wetlands of the warmer, temperate latitudes. The creeks, shallow open water areas such as shallow bays and impoundments, mudflats, and salt marshes of the Meadowlands provide food resources such as submerged pondweeds and protection from harsh weather and predators during winter and breeding season. Tidal creeks dominated by common reed and other emergent vegetation are used by breeding birds, and also provide important shelter for wintering waterfowl such as green-winged teal (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK 2000).

Canada goose, American black duck, mallard, canvasback, greater scaup, gadwall, ruddy duck, green-winged teal, and northern pintail are the species most abundant in winter in the Hackensack Meadowlands (Day et al. 1999). Mid-winter aerial survey counts of waterfowl on the New York Harbor estuary average 80,000 birds (Day et al. 1999). Daily winter counts in the Meadowlands average 2,000 birds. Aerial waterfowl counts on the Hackensack River between routes 3 and 46 flown September to January, 1972-1975, by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game found 2-4 species and 195-1530 individuals per count, with species in approximate order of decreasing abundance American black duck, mallard, northern pintail, green-winged teal, Canada goose, blue-winged teal, canvasback, scaup, northern shoveller (McCormick & Associates 1978). A major flock of ruddy ducks winters on the Hackensack River (Day et al. 1999). Hundreds of northern pintails and canvasback are present in the Sawmill Creek area during winter (Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). Mill Creek, Cromakill Creek, and other small creeks have abundant green-winged teal during fall and winter (Day et al. 1999).

Breeding waterfowl are concentrated in common reed stands along creeks and ditches, and in open water areas (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Tidal open water – mudflat complexes are used for foraging by a variety of waterfowl. Species that breed in the Hackensack Meadowlands in significant numbers include Canada goose, blue-winged teal, mallard, gadwall, American black duck, and ruddy duck (NJTA 1986, Wargo 1989, Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999; Paul Castelli, NJDEP, personal communication to KM 2001). In the late 1980s and 1990s, gadwall was the most common breeding duck in the Meadowlands (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000), and breeding areas are fairly widespread in the Meadowlands. In 1990, a pond on top of a landfill held 144 gadwall ducklings (Day et al. 1999). Locations of particular importance include Kearny Marsh (East and West), the marshes around Moonachie, Mill, Cromakill, Bellman’s, and Berry’s creeks, Sawmill Creek WMA, Kingsland Marsh, Oritani Marsh, and Losen Slote. Regionally rare breeding populations of ruddy duck, a species that in New Jersey nests only in reed marshes (Kane 2001b), occur at Kearny Marsh and Kingsland Marsh (NJTA 1986, Day et al. 1999). Kingsland Marsh supports one of the largest breeding populations of this species in the state (NJTA 1986). Kingsland Impoundment had 2,000 waterfowl during a survey in July 1994 (Day et al. 1999). Wood duck broods have been observed in Kearny Marsh West, but as there are no large trees in the immediate vicinity, the nest sites are a mystery (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000).
The Meadowlands are visited by a number of waterfowl species during spring and fall migration. The most numerous species include gadwall, mallard, northern shoveler, green-winged teal, northern pintail, all three mergansers, greater and lesser scaups, American wigeon, common goldeneye, canvasback, American black duck, blue-winged teal, and Canada goose. Important locations include Kearny Marsh, the marshes around Mill, Bellman’s, and Moonachie creeks, Losen Slote, and Power Plant Peninsula (Kane and Githens 1997, USACOE 2000).
Wading birds: Several species of wading birds nest, forage and roost in the Meadowlands (Day et al. 1999). The wading birds common in the Meadowlands include black-crowned night-heron (Threatened), American bittern (Endangered), glossy ibis, great egret, green heron, least bittern, snowy egret, great blue heron, and yellow-crowned night-heron (Threatened) (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999, USACOE 2000). In addition to the local breeding populations, wading birds come from breeding sites in the New York Harbor estuary complex to forage. These include black-crowned night-heron (Threatened), snowy egret, glossy ibis, and great egret (Day et al. 1999). In mid to late summer, the Meadowlands are heavily used as a foraging area during post-breeding dispersal of adult and juvenile egrets, herons, ibis, and other aquatic birds (Day et al. 1999). Furthermore, the Meadowlands provide roosting habitat (nighttime resting sites) for these species at that season (Day et al. 1999). In 1995, the Harbor Herons Rookery Complex, “downstream” of the Meadowlands in the Arthur Kill and Kill van Kull, supported 1,400 nesting pairs of nesting herons, egrets, and ibises (US Fish and Wildlife Service 1997). Sawmill Creek has been identified as a main foraging area for these “Harbor Herons.”
Least bitterns breed in Kearny Marsh and Kingsland Marsh (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Kearny Marsh had 35 adult least bitterns during breeding seasons in the 1970s and 1980s (Day et al. 1999). There is still a black-crowned night-heron (Threatened) rookery located there (Day et al. 1999), and green herons breed there (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). In summer, egrets and herons use this area as a feeding and roosting site (Kane and Githens 1997). Both least bittern and American bittern (Endangered) were reported to breed in a deepwater cattail marsh in the Kearny area in 1905 (Abbott 1907).
Yellow-crowned night-heron (Threatened) and green heron are resident at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site (Kane and Githens 1997). Several species use the site in spring, summer and fall (USACOE 2000). Black-crowned night-heron (Threatened), American bittern (Endangered), least bittern (1 sighting), great blue heron, great egret, and snowy egret have also been seen there (USACOE 2000).
The wetland mitigation site between Mill Creek and Cromakill Creek contains open water habitat, mudflats, intertidal salt marsh, and small islands that attract wading birds (Day et al. 1999). The mudflats at Power Plant Peninsula are used by snowy egrets (Kane and Githens 1997). Other important locations for migrant wading birds are in the areas around Bellman’s, Cromakill, and Berry’s creeks (Kane and Githens 1997). The Berry’s Creek area probably supports breeding American bittern (Endangered) (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). The tidal flats and marshes at Kingsland Marsh and Sawmill Creek WMA are heavily used by herons (NJTA 1986).
Rallids: In spring, summer, and fall Virginia rail and sora were considered “common,” clapper rail and king rail “infrequent,” and common moorhen “abundant,” in the area of the Sports Complex (McCormick & Associates 1978). American coot is among the most abundant birds in the Meadowlands during winter (Day et al.1999). Kearny Marsh supports nesting American coot and common moorhen (Kane and Githens 1997). Coot also breeds at Kingsland Impoundment (NJTA 1986). Common moorhen breeds in the marshes at Berry’s Creek, and was also found in the Moonachie Creek area during the 1994 breeding season (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Moorhens breed in the common reed within tidal open water - mudflat areas at Oritani Marsh (NJTA 1986). In 1905, moorhen was a common breeding bird in a cattail marsh near Newark that may have been Kearny Marsh (Abbott 1907).
The Carlstadt-Moonachie site had Virgina rail in 1994 (Kane and Githens 1997). In addition, clapper rail and Virginia rail are there in spring, summer and fall (USACOE 2000). King rail is present in summer, suggesting it may be nesting onsite (USACOE 2000). The Mill Creek site had breeding clapper rail in 1994 (Kane and Githens 1997). One of the last reported nesting sites for clapper rail in northern New Jersey was at Kingsland Marsh (NJTA 1986).
Virginia rail was observed at Oritani Marsh during the Turnpike expansion surveys and may have been nesting (NJTA 1986). A Virginia rail was observed foraging in a creek at the Sawmill Creek WMA in April 1999 (L. Windham, Lehigh University, personal communication to EK and KM). Virginia rails bred in an area of cattail that developed in Kearny Marsh West (R. Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000). Sora was recorded in September, once each at Sawmill Creek WMA and Mill Creek (Wargo 1989). Sora was found at the Moonachie site during fall surveys (USACOE 2000). Chapman (1900) mentioned soras feeding on wild-rice in the Meadowlands during fall migration. Sora may have formerly bred in the Meadowlands, but does not do so now (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000).
Shorebirds: The Meadowlands are considered one of the most important stopovers for shorebirds migrating between South America and Arctic nesting grounds (Day et al. 1999). The Meadowlands are one of 11 critical migration corridors in New Jersey as identified by Dunne et al. (1989). Thirty-one species of shorebirds have been found in the Meadowlands during migration (Day et al. 1999); during fall migration 31 species visit the Kingsland site complex alone (Kane 1983). Tidal mudflats and impoundments are important habitats within the Meadowlands and are used as feeding sites by thousands of migrating shorebirds (Day et al. 1999). The most common fall migrants include semipalmated sandpiper, lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitcher, and dunlin (Day et al. 1999). At one site in the Meadowlands [Kingsland Impoundment?], maximum daily counts of sandpipers have exceeded 5,000 in most years (Day et al. 1999). Wilson’s phalarope is a regularly seen migrant (Day et al. 1999). Some of the rarer fall migrants include buff-breasted sandpiper, Hudsonian godwit, and red-necked phalarope (Day et al. 1999).
Kingsland Marsh had 31 species of shorebirds on the tidal flat between July and November 1971-1980 (Kane 1983). Eight thousand semipalmated sandpipers were recorded in the impoundment 23 July 1994 (Kane and Githens 1997). Shorebirds use the mudflats exposed during drawdown of the impoundment. Other shorebirds using the impoundments include both species of yellowlegs (Kane and Githens 1997). Kane (1983) points out the importance of managing the impoundment at this site from July through November to provide the shallow water and mudflats needed for resting and feeding by shorebirds at times of high tide (see Kane 1983). The area of the impoundment nearest the Turnpike is used as a high-tide roost by migrating shorebirds in fall (NJTA 1986). Tidal mudflat habitat in this location is also important as a feeding area for shorebirds (14 species seen) and is one of the most important areas in the state for migrating shorebirds in fall (NJTA 1986).
Sawmill Creek WMA has an abundance of shorebirds at low tide (Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). The wetland mitigation site between Mill Creek and Cromakill Creek contains open water, mudflats, intertidal saltmarsh, and small islands that attract shorebirds.
Migrants at the Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes included yellowlegs, common snipe, least and semipalmated sandpipers, and short-billed dowitcher (Kane and Githens 1997). Tidal areas there provide feeding habitat for shorebirds (NJTA 1986). Common snipe was found there in all seasons except winter (USACOE 2000). Greater yellowlegs (spring, summer, fall), and less commonly the lesser yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpiper, and solitary sandpiper were found there (USACOE 2000).

The mudflats at Power Plant Peninsula are important for migrating shorebirds, including spotted sandpiper, greater yellowlegs, and semipalmated sandpiper (hundreds in late July - early August) (Kane and Githens 1997). Migrants using the Bellman’s Creek area included greater and lesser yellowlegs and semipalmated plover (Kane and Githens 1997). During fall migration in 1995, greater yellowlegs and semipalmated sandpiper were seen at the Mill Creek site (Kane and Githens 1997). Among the migrating shorebirds seen in 1995 were least and semipalmated sandpipers, short-billed dowitcher, and greater yellowlegs (Kane and Githens 1997). In the Oritani Marsh area, shorebirds use some areas near the Turnpike as a high-tide roost (NJTA 1986). A variety of shorebirds visit the tidal marsh, including greater and lesser yellowlegs, least and semipalmated sandpipers, common snipe, and killdeer (NJTA 1986). A Wilson’s phalarope (rare in New Jersey) was seen there in August 1985 (NJTA 1986).

Spotted sandpipers breed at widespread locations within the Hackensack Meadowlands. Breeding sites for this species include Kearny Marsh, the headwaters of Losen Slote, and the marshes surrounding Bellman’s, Berry’s, Mill, Cromakill, and Moonachie creeks (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, USACOE 2000)). Killdeer have been documented breeding at Kingsland Marsh and the marshes around Moonachie and Bellman’s creeks (Kane and Githens 1997, USACOE 2000). Two biologically anomalous sandpipers, American woodcock and common snipe, occur in the Meadowlands. Woodcock is declining in the eastern U.S. Woodcock breeds in quaking aspen patches on landfill cover (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2000). Common snipe was found at the Moonachie Creek site in all seasons except winter, and therefore may have bred there (USACOE 2000).
Gulls and terns: Least tern0000 (Endangered) has nested on dredged material deposits and may be roosting on roofs of commercial buildings in the Meadowlands (Day et al. 1999). North of the Vince Lombardi Service Area, a large sandy area provided nesting habitat for the least tern (NJTA 1986), but this site is believed to be no longer in use (Rich Kane, personal communication to EK, 2001).
Kearny Marsh is a feeding site for gulls, least tern (Endangered), and black skimmer (Endangered) (Day et al. 1999, NJTA 1986). Least and Forster’s terns use the marsh as a feeding site in summer (Kane and Githens 1997). Species using the Kingsland Impoundment include least and Forster’s terns, great black-backed and herring gulls by the thousands, and the lesser black-backed, glaucous, and Iceland gulls (Kane and Githens 1997). Least terns (Endangered) that breed in the Meadowlands congregate there with their fledged young (NJTA 1986). Black skimmers (Endangered) have been seen feeding there (NJTA 1986). Sawmill Creek WMA has hundreds of herring, great black-backed, and ring-billed gulls during migration (Kane and Githens 1997). Non-breeding visitors at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site during summer also included least tern (Endangered), and migrants included Forster’s tern and least tern (Kane and Githens 1997). Tidal areas provide feeding habitat for least tern (NJTA 1986), as well as great black-backed gull, laughing gull, and ring-billed gull (USACOE 2000). The mudflats at Power Plant Peninsula are important for migrating species including least tern (Endangered), Forster’s tern, and ring-billed gull (Kane and Githens 1997). During migration in 1995, the Mill Creek area had Forster’s and least terns (Endangered) (Kane and Githens 1997). The Cromakill Creek site had breeding ring-billed gull and least tern (Endangered) (Kane and Githens 1997).
Other water birds: Kearny Marsh is a nesting and wintering area for pied-billed grebe (Endangered) (Kane and Githens 1997) as well as a feeding site for double-crested cormorant (Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). Horned and red-necked grebes use the area during migration (Kane and Githens 1997). Pied-billed grebe was recorded breeding in the Kearny area in 1905 (Abbott 1907). Kingsland Impoundment has breeding pied-billed grebe (Endangered) (NJTA 1986) and the mudflats created during drawdown are heavily used by double-crested cormorants and pied-billed grebes (Kane and Githens 1997). Double-crested cormorants were present in the Moonachie Creek area during spring and summer (USACOE 2000). Cormorants use the mudflats at Power Plant Peninsula, as well as the Berry’s Creek area during migration (Kane and Githens 1997).
Birds of prey: Raptors use a variety of wetland and upland habitats in the Meadowlands for breeding, hunting, and roosting (Day et al. 1999). Species of hawks and owls commonly seen include northern harrier (Endangered), rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk (Threatened), American kestrel, short-eared owl, and long-eared owl (Threatened) (Day et al. 1999). The Meadowlands are an important wintering area for several raptor species (Bosakowski 1983). Habitat characteristics favoring raptors in the Meadowlands include the large extent of the marshes, little direct human disturbance, and an abundance of prey (fish, small birds, small rodents, depending upon the raptor species).
One of only 2 pairs of northern harriers (Endangered) confirmed nesting in the urban core of New York City nests at the Berry’s Creek Marsh in the Meadowlands (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). This represents a remnant population of the 1-3 pairs of harriers (Day et al. 1999) and possibly 4 pairs (Kane 1974) that once nested there. Common reed stands in the area are important as feeding and nesting habitat for harriers (NJTA 1986). Harrier was considered “common” in spring, fall, and winter, and “infrequent” in summer near the proposed Meadowlands Arena site (McCormick & Associates 1978). In addition to the marshes within the Berry’s Creek breeding territory, harriers forage in many locations throughout the Meadowlands, including Kearny Marsh, Oritani Marsh, Moonachie Creek marshes, and around Bellman’s and Cromakill creeks (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997). Wargo (1989) reported northern harriers at both Sawmill Creek WMA and at Mill Creek. The Carlstadt-Moonachie site (Empire Tract) had a pair of northern harriers (Endangered) acting territorial in April and May 1995, always in the same spot, suggesting a potential breeding location (Kane and Githens 1997). Northern harriers are commonly observed there hunting over the common reed (NJTA 1986, USACOE 2000). Furthermore, there is still a winter roost for harriers at Berry’s Creek (Kane and Githens 1997).
The common reed marshes and landfills of the Meadowlands provide important habitat for populations of wintering raptors, especially northern harriers, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, short-eared owls and long-eared owls (Threatened) (Bosakowski 1983, 1986). Berry’s Creek, Kearny Marsh, Sawmill Creek WMA, and Moonachie Creek are among the areas important as feeding and roosting sites for many raptor species (NJTA 1986, Day et al. 1999). American kestrel visits the landfills (NJTA 1986); McCormick & Associates (1978) considered kestrel “uncommon” all year at the Sports Complex site. A variety of raptors has been seen at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site including short-eared owl, which probably uses this large area of habitat in winter. American kestrel, northern harrier, and red-tailed hawk are commonly seen there (USACOE 2000). Rough-legged hawk is present in winter and spring (USACOE 2000). Several species considered transient have also been observed, including merlin, Cooper’s hawk (Threatened), sharp-shinned hawk, and red-shouldered hawk (Threatened) (USACOE 2000). Wintering raptors use the Berry’s Creek site intensively, including rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, northern harrier, long-eared and short-eared owls, peregrine falcon (Endangered), American kestrel, northern goshawk (Endangered) and Cooper’s hawk (Threatened) (Kane and Githens 1997). Wargo (1989) reported northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, and American kestrel at Sawmill Creek, and at the Mill Creek mitigation site, harrier, kestrel, and once an osprey (Threatened).
Observations of hawk activity during winter demonstrated that northern harriers hunt predominantly in common reed wetlands whereas rough-legged hawks hunt around landfills (Bosakowski 1983). A large communal roost of northern harriers was located in a common reed marsh in consecutive years (Bosakowski 1983). The areas most notable for wintering long-eared and short-eared owls are Berry’s Creek and Moonachie Creek (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). McCormick & Associates (1978) referred to short-eared owl as “uncommon” in spring, summer, and fall, implying possible breeding in the vicinity of the Sports Complex.
In addition to marshes, the areas around landfills are used for hunting by wintering short-eared owls (Bosakowski 1983, NJTA 1986). Studies of long-eared and short-eared owl pellets collected from roost sites near Berry’s Creek in the Meadowlands were conducted by Anderson (1977) and Bosakowski (1982). Anderson identified meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) as the primary food source for long-eared owl (Threatened) followed by Norway rats, house mice, and small birds. However, Bosakowski found that house mouse was the major prey for long-eared owl. Bosakowski explains this unusual phenomenon as being possibly due to snow cover making it difficult to capture meadow voles. Bosakowski identified house mice, birds, and Norway rats as the main prey items in short-eared owl pellets. Roost sites preferred by short-eared owls are in large conifer trees adjacent to the open expanses of marsh and field where they forage (Bosakowski et al. 1989). Short-eared owls roost in planted conifers or on the ground in common reed stands (Bosakowski 1986). Long-eared and short-eared owls have overall experienced a severe decline as breeding birds in the state (Bosakowski et al. 1989).
Osprey (Threatened) has been observed at Kearny Marsh, which represents a potential breeding habitat for this species (NJTA 1986). Osprey has also been observed feeding at Kingsland Marsh and at the Moonachie Creek marshes in summer (NJTA 1986, USACOE 2000). A golden eagle was seen in the Meadowlands in January 2001 (S. Sautner, personal communication to KM). There are recent bald eagle (Endangered) sightings as well: April 2000, an immature at Little Ferry, and January 2001, an adult at New Milford (H. Carola, personal communication to EK, 2002). Bald eagles are now present year-round on the Hudson River estuary, are seen frequently, and a few pairs are nesting, thus more frequent occurrence in the Meadowlands should be expected.
Until recently, the peregrine falcon was federally listed as endangered and is still listed as endangered by New Jersey (Table 4). Bridges in and near the Meadowlands may be used as nesting sites (Day et al. 1999). Peregrine falcon pairs occur at the PSE&G building in Kearny, and at the Driscoll, Goethals, and Verrazano bridges (Kane and Githens 1997) not far outside the Meadowlands. The Driscoll Bridge, however, was not occupied by nesting peregrines in 1999 or 2000 (S. Wander, personal communication to EK, 2002). Peregrines are seen often enough in the Meadowlands, and sufficient suitable foraging habitat and prey populations are available, to indicate that some Meadowlands marshes and landfills are probably feeding sites for migrant peregrines, nonbreeding immatures, or peregrines breeding near the Meadowlands (Wander and Wander 1995). The majority of reported peregrine sightings in the Meadowlands in recent years has occurred in the Lyndhurst – North Arlington area (Wander and Wander 1995). Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area, among other sites, could be an important foraging area (S. Wander, personal communication to EK, 2002).
Galliform birds: Ring-necked pheasant has been observed at Berry’s Creek, Moonachie Creek, and Kearny Marsh (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, USACOE 2000). This species is widespread and fairly common in the Meadowlands; pheasants spend a lot of time in common reed stands, but are believed to nest in other habitats, e.g. upland meadows (Richard Kane, personal communication to EK 2000; EK, personal observations).
Other birds: The Meadowlands provide habitat for a variety of songbirds and other small birds during the breeding, spring and fall migration, and winter seasons (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999). The diversity of small birds is enhanced by the presence of a diversity of habitats and vegetation types in the Meadowlands. Marsh-upland edges and rights-of-way with mixed vegetation including vines, sumacs, and other abundant upland shrubs provide late fall, winter, and early spring food. Shrub thickets and reed stands offer dense escape cover and shelter from the weather. There may be reduced pressure from terrestrial predators such as snakes, certain rodents, and certain carnivores because some species are rare or absent from the Meadowlands and others may have difficulty reaching some of the bird habitats due to highways and canals.
The species most commonly found nesting in the freshwater wetlands and salt marshes, including common reed marshes, are red-winged blackbird, marsh wren, common yellowthroat, willow flycatcher, and swamp sparrow (NJTA 1986, Kane and Githens 1997, USACOE 2000). Quinn (1997) suggested that the sedge wren (Endangered) may be returning as a breeding species in the Sawmill Creek WMA and in Kearny Marsh. Sedge wren was also reported at the Moonachie Creek area during the breeding season (USACOE 2000). However, these areas may not provide suitable habitat for the sedge wren (R. Kane, personal communication to EK and KM). Meadows of bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) interspersed with reed on a portion of the Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes most closely approach the requisite short grass or sedge habitat for this species (EK, personal observations, 2001-2002). Red-winged blackbird is the songbird most commonly nesting in common reed (NJTA 1986). Areas of shrubs and trees found along ditches and canals, on landfills and other uplands, combined with upland meadows, support several breeding species, including northern flicker, downy woodpecker, eastern kingbird, tree swallow, fish crow, American robin, brown thrasher, gray catbird, northern mockingbird, yellow warbler, common grackle, northern oriole, indigo bunting, blue grosbeak (rare), American goldfinch, song sparrow, savannah sparrow, (NJTA 1986, Wargo 1989, Kane and Githens 1997). Savannah sparrow (Threatened) was found at the Moonachie site during spring, summer and fall surveys (USACOE 2000).
During fall migration, large numbers of songbirds and other small birds are found in the trees and shrubs on the uplands. In addition to the species found breeding there, some of the small birds present in fall include yellow-bellied sapsucker, eastern phoebe, purple martin, bank swallow, hermit thrush, winter wren, American pipit, ruby-crowned kinglet, and golden-crowned kinglet, warbling vireo, palm warbler, blackpoll warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, Lincoln’s sparrow, and bobolink (Threatened) (Kane and Githens 1997). Historically, large nonbreeding roosts of European starling (Kalmbach and Gabrielson 1921) and swallows (tree, bank, barn, cliff, and northern rough-winged) (Chapman 1900) were reported from the Meadowlands. Roosting congregations of starling, blackbirds, and swallows probably still occur in reed stands or groves of trees.
The remnant lowland forests at Teterboro Airport, the headwaters of Losen Slote Creek, and Schmidt’s Woods in Secaucus are important as stopover habitat for many songbirds, including Neotropical migrants, as well as nesting habitat for several resident and Neotropical forest songbirds. For example, the headwaters of Losen Slote Creek in Little Ferry contain forest habitat that is used by breeding species, including downy woodpecker, barn swallow, American crow, blue jay, and tufted titmouse (Kane and Githens 1997). In addition, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, American robin, wood thrush, gray catbird, common grackle, and northern cardinal were present in the forests at Teterboro Airport during the breeding season in 2001 (KM, personal observation) and are probably nesting in the other forest remnants. During migration in 1995, 5 species of flycatcher, ruby-crowned kinglet, blue-gray gnatcatcher, 5 thrushes, cedar waxwing, 3 species of vireo, 18 warblers, orchard and northern orioles, rose-breasted grosbeak, bobolink (Threatened), 4 sparrow species, and American goldfinch were observed at the headwaters of Losen Slote Creek (Kane and Githens 1997).
The Meadowlands have historically provided habitat for several rare or declining species. The tidal marsh at Kingsland is one of the last reported nesting sites for sharp-tailed and seaside sparrows in northern New Jersey (NJTA 1986). Sharp-tailed sparrow was found at Mill Creek and Sawmill Creek during September and October (Wargo 1989). North of the Vince Lombardi Service Area, a large sandy area formerly provided nesting habitat for horned lark (NJTA 1986) but is believed no longer in use (R. Kane, personal communication to EK, 2001).
Notable species that winter in the Meadowlands include horned lark and American pipit (NJTA 1986). Belted kingfisher has been found at a number of sites in the Meadowlands but its nesting habitat has not been reported. Common nighthawk was “uncommon” in spring, summer, and fall in the Sports Complex area (McCormick & Associates 1978); it is not stated whether these were breeding birds or late and early migrants.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), and painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) are the four turtle species found in the Meadowlands (Quinn 1997). The diamondback terrapin, unique among North American turtles in its adaptations to brackish water, has increased greatly in the Meadowlands during the past three decades (HMDC 1999). Terrapins are confined to the lower and middle reaches of the Hackensack River where salinities averaged 9.4 ppt and 5.6 ppt, respectively (Kraus and Bragin 1988). Significant numbers of this species have been seen at the Sawmill Creek WMA and Kingsland Marsh (Kane and Githens 1997, Day et al. 1999), and the Sawmill Creek wetlands are believed to support a population of several hundred or more (HMDC 1999). Diamondback terrapins feed in estuarine shallows and wetland habitats and nest in nearby sandy habitats and along road and railbeds with sparse to moderate vegetation cover (Day et al. 1999). Barrier fences have been erected at four locations to guide terrapins beneath the New Jersey Turnpike via existing waterways rather than attempting to cross the pavement (Urffer 2002).
Snapping turtle tolerates brackish environments (Quinn 1997). In the upper reaches of the river, where salinities average 3.4 ppt, snapping turtle replaces diamondback terrapin (Kraus and Bragin 1988). Snapping turtle has been observed throughout the Meadowlands, most notably at Kearny Marsh, Sawmill Creek WMA, Oritani Marsh and near Berry’s Creek (NJTA 1986). Painted turtle also tolerates brackish environments and has been seen at Kearny Marsh, Sawmill Creek WMA, and around Berry’s Creek (NJTA 1986). According to Quinn (1997), mud turtle has been reported at Berry’s Creek, Bellman’s Creek, and Kearny Marsh. Because mud turtle is listed as endangered in New York State and is probably rare in northern New Jersey, specific documentation of its occurrence in the Meadowlands would be valuable.
Several snake species are reportedly fairly common in the Meadowlands. These include garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon), eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), and brown snake (Storeria dekayi) (NJTA 1986). Garter snake is fairly widespread in the Meadowlands (NJTA 1986). Water snake may be found in heavily vegetated freshwater or mildly brackish areas, such as the Kingsland Impoundment, Overpeck Creek, Losen Slote Creek (Quinn 1997), and Sawmill Creek WMA (NJTA 1986). Milk snake and brown snake occur on uplands adjacent to wetlands and on landfills (NJTA 1986).
Few amphibians occur in the Hackensack Meadowlands because of the predominance of brackish water. The green frog (Rana clamitans) is found at Kearny Marsh, Losen Slote Creek, and in other nontidal wetlands (Quinn 1997). The southern leopard frog (Rana utricularia) is found in fresh and mildly brackish creeks and impoundments, including the Kearny Marsh, Overpeck Creek, and Sawmill Creek areas (Quinn 1997) (reported as “Rana pipiens” which does not occur south of the Mid-Hudson Valley and southern New England [see Klemens et al. 1987]). Pickerel frog (Rana palustris) has been seen at Kearny Marsh (Quinn 1997).
Several other reptiles and amphibians are reported to occur in the Meadowlands (compiled in USACOE 2000; also see McCormick & Associates 1978), but documentation is lacking. Some species may have been reported based solely on field guide range maps, misidentifications, or occurrences near but outside the Meadowlands. These species are: stinkpot, spotted turtle, five-lined skink, eastern ribbon snake, eastern hognose snake, northern black racer, smooth green snake, American toad, Fowler’s toad, northern cricket frog, spring peeper, “gray treefrog,” (whether Hyla versicolor or H. chrysoscelis not specified; the latter is endangered in New Jersey), New Jersey chorus frog, and bullfrog. Fowler’s toad (Bufo fowleri) was present in the Meadowlands in the late 1960s, but has apparently disappeared due to habitat loss (R. Kane, personal communication to EK and KM, 2001). The lack of documentation of American toad and bullfrog from the Meadowlands is puzzling. The apparent absence of salamanders presumably reflects brackish water influence, scarcity of undisturbed upland soils, loss of forested habitats, and fragmentation of the landscape by roads and other intensive land uses.

A February 1987 to December 1988 study of fish in the Hackensack River and its major tributaries found 34 species (Kraus and Bragin 1988). The lower Hackensack River system was declared essential fish habitat by the National Marine Fisheries Service for six species: red hake, black sea bass, Atlantic butterfish, and three flounders (Day et al. 1999). Designation is pending for bluefish and Atlantic herring (Day et al. 1999). The most common prey items for piscivorous birds and fishes are the abundant mummichogs, striped killifish, and grass shrimp (Day et al. 1999). Atlantic tomcod, formerly listed as a threatened species in New Jersey, uses the Hackensack River from near its mouth to Sawmill Creek as a nursery, refuge, and spawning area (Kraus and Bragin 1990). The greatest numbers of adult Atlantic tomcod were captured by Kraus and Bragin (1990) in late summer and autumn.
During summer, low dissolved oxygen levels and increased suspended sediment make the waters tolerable by only a few hardy resident species (Day et al. 1999). Dominant fish species are those resident, estuarine fishes tolerant of fluctuations in salinity and water quality (Day et al. 1999), including mummichog, striped killifish, inland silverside, Atlantic silverside, white perch, brown bullhead, white catfish, European carp, common sunfish (pumpkinseed), bay anchovy, and American eel (Day et al. 1999). Ninety percent of the fish caught in summer are mummichogs (Day et al. 1999).
The most abundant fishes in the 1988 survey were the mummichog (85% of numbers), inland silverside (9.2%), white perch (2%), and brown bullhead (1.4%) (Kraus and Bragin 1988). Other fish species comprised 2.4% of the total catch for that year, the most abundant of which included striped killifish, blueback herring, Atlantic silverside, striped bass, and common sunfish (Kraus and Bragin 1988). The fish community varied seasonally, regardless of water quality. Peaks in numbers of fish caught occurred in May and October when water quality is declining and improving, respectively. The peaks correspond to spring and fall migration as well as periods when fish are using the estuary as a refuge from predators and as a spawning and nursery area (Kraus and Bragin 1988). Some of the fish species found in spring included migrants such as alewife, Atlantic tomcod, blueback herring, and striped bass as well as those seeking foraging and shelter habitat such as Atlantic menhaden and bluefish (Kraus and Bragin 1988). Atlantic menhaden and bluefish are the most common marine fishes (Day et al. 1999). Alewife and tomcod were present most of the year except July and August (Kraus and Bragin 1988). American shad is also present during spring (Day et al. 1999). Fall peaks occurred in northern weakfish and winter flounder. Resident species, present throughout the year, included mummichog, white perch, inland silverside, brown bullhead, common sunfish, European carp, and American eel. Among the less common freshwater species found in the current (2001-2002) survey are largemouth bass and goldfish; green sunfish was reported in the 1987-1988 survey (B. Bragin, personal communication to EK, 2002). Because other centrarchids or hybrids are sometimes misidentified as green sunfish (R.E. Schmidt, Hudsonia, personal communication to EK, 2002), voucher specimens of this species in the collection of MERI should be verified by a systematic ichthyologist.
In the high salinity, lower reaches of the river, 22 species were taken (7 marine, 6 diadromous, 5 estuarine, and 4 freshwater) in the first NJMC survey. In the middle reaches of the river, 21 species were taken (6 marine, 7 diadromous, 4 estuarine, and 4 freshwater). At the uppermost reaches of the river sampled, where salinity was lowest, 14 species of fish were taken (3 diadromous, 4 estuarine, 7 freshwater) (Kraus and Bragin 1988). In fall 2000, 30 striped bass were tagged in one afternoon in the river at Secaucus; in 2001 there was an even better striped bass run with many anglers catching striped bass at Laurel Hill Park, under the Turnpike bridge between Secaucus and Kearny, and at the PSEG power plant on the Hackensack River in Jersey City (H. Carola, personal communication to EK, 2002). USACOE (2000) reports a recent survey limited to 3 days of gillnetting within the creeks of the Carlstadt-Moonachie site; mummichog, European carp, brown bullhead, and common sunfish were the only species caught.
A study of larval, juvenile and adult mummichogs compared habitat use of reed and saltmarsh cordgrass-dominated marshes at Mill Creek (Raichel 2001). Larval mummichogs were significantly more abundant in cordgrass marshes than in reed marshes. However, adult mummichogs were similarly abundant in both marsh types. Differences in microtopography and prey sizes were identified as probable explanations for the observed pattern.
A list of species known or expected to occur in the Hackensack Meadowlands (NJTA 1986) is in Table 2. There is potential for all these species to occur in the Hackensack Meadowlands, but it undoubtedly is not a complete list of the Meadowlands fish fauna. We found no specific identification of spawning and nursery habitats in the literature on the Meadowlands. Also, information on fishes of the tidal creeks, ditches, and tributary streams is sparse despite the areal importance and probable trophic significance of these small waterways. The marsh waterways could support species such as eastern mudminnow (Umbra pygmaea) and mud sunfish (Acantharcus pomotis) that do not occur in the Hackensack River mainstem (R. E. Schmidt, personal communication to EK, 2002). Low dissolved oxygen minima (see Water Quality, above) presumably limit fish diversity and fish use of small waterways, and even the larger waterways, in hot summer weather. Mugue and Weis (1995) studied genetics of two subspecies of the mummichog and hybridization with banded killifish; they sampled at several Meadowlands stations as well as stations on the Hudson River estuary and the Jersey Shore. Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and “sunfish” are introduced at unspecified locations, presumably including the Meadowlands, by the Hudson County Office of Mosquito Control (Rutgers University 2002).
MERI is conducting a two-year re-survey of fish and benthos, using the sampling stations of the 1987-88 survey in the Hackensack River mainstem and major “boatable” tributaries (Brett Bragin, personal communication to EK, 2002). Sampling was conducted monthly for the first year, and will continue quarterly during the second year.

Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

A study of aquatic fauna conducted by Bragin et al. (1988) found 53 species of invertebrates in the Hackensack River and its major tributaries. Polychaetes comprised 36% of the sample, 15% were mollusks, and 11% were amphipods. The remaining 38% of the species were spread among 13 classes of organisms. NJTA (1986) reports approximately 42 invertebrate species within the Hackensack River and its tributaries during a study from May to September 1985. Oligochaetes, polychaetes (clam worms, ampharetid worms, and mud worms), crustaceans (amphipods, shore shrimp, sand shrimp, and barnacles), insects (midges), bivalves, and gastropods (swamp hydrobia snail) were among the most abundant species. During this study and others within the Raritan to Hudson estuaries, it was noted that the greatest diversity and abundance of aquatic invertebrates occur at shallow depths (< 6 meters [< 20 feet]), because there is periodic oxygen depletion at greater depths (NJTA 1986). In general, samples included species very tolerant of pollution and low oxygen levels (e.g., certain oligochaetes and polychaetes) and those able to tolerate moderate pollution and low oxygen (e.g., certain crustaceans) (NJTA 1986). More tolerant species were dominant in subtidal (channel) areas (NJTA 1986).

Benthic macroinvertebrates were sampled at 16 stations in the tidal and nontidal marshes of the “Empire Tract” (Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes) on 8 November 2000, yielding 24 higher taxa (Grossmueller 2001). Marine oligochaetes and marine polychaetes were abundant at 2 stations. Chironomids were well represented at certain stations, and enchytraeids moderately represented at a few stations. Surveys of creeks in Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes found midge larvae (Chironominae), biting midge or no-see-um larvae (Ceratopogonidae), and dragonfly larvae (Libellulidae) (Hartman and Smith 1999).
Each spring and summer, there are large swarms of the midge, Chironomus decorus, in the Meadowlands (Utberg and Sutherland 1982). A study in a brackish marsh in Bergen County in 1979 demonstrated that midge populations increased with rising temperatures in spring and peaked in July (Utberg and Sutherland 1982). Quinn (2001a) discusses Chironomus plumosus as emerging in large swarms in the Meadowlands and serving as important food for tree swallows and other birds. Kraus (1989) noted that Chironomus decorus is the main food of tree swallows. There is no information indicating that chironomid midges are an economic or health problem in the Meadowlands, although they are probably considered a nuisance at times.
The Meadowlands have historically been considered a major mosquito-producing landscape. Not only saltmarsh mosquitoes (especially Aedes sollicitans) but also peridomestic species can be abundant. In Headlee’s (1945: Table 1) summary of the results of trapping adult female mosquitoes around the state 1932-1941, a trap operated at Secaucus yielded 2.5 times as many house mosquitoes (Culex pipiens) as the next most productive locality in the state. This mosquito, which breeds in organically-polluted surface waters as well as artificial containers, might have been a byproduct of the Secaucus pig farms. Headlee (1945:Table 1) reported 23 mosquito species overall from Meadowlands localities. Twenty-four species of mosquitoes occur in Hudson County (not necessarily in the Meadowlands) where the most important mosquito breeding habitats are, in decreasing order of importance, freshwater swamp, polluted water, salt marsh, fresh floodwater, woodland pool, artificial container or treehole, and snow pool (Rutgers University 2002).
As part of a study of mummichog use of common reed versus saltmarsh cordgrass marshes, Raichel (2001) sampled benthic invertebrates in mitigated and non-mitigated areas along Mill Creek. She found that copepods, ostracods, nematodes and oligochaetes were much more abundant in cordgrass than reed marshes. Gammarids and gastropods were more prevalent in reed-dominated marshes. Among the insects, chironomids were more dominant in reed marshes whereas Collembola were more dominant in cordgrass marshes. Yuhas (2001) studied benthic invertebrates in “natural” reed and saltmarsh cordgrass marshes along Sawmill Creek and at two mitigated wetlands at Mill Creek, one recently initiated and one initiated 12 years earlier (i.e., the Hartz Mountain site). Common taxa ( > 1.0% of the total abundance) at the 12-year-old Mill Creek restoration site were nematodes, oligochaetes, copepods, and the sabellid polychaete Manayunkia aestuarina. Uncommon taxa ( < 1.0% of the total abundance) at the 12-year restoration site were ostracods and gastropods. Common taxa at the recently initiated restoration site at Mill Creek were nematodes, oligochaetes, ostracods, and gastropods. Uncommon taxa at this site were copepods, chironomids, and the ampharetid polychaete Hobsonia florida. Common taxa at the Sawmill Creek sites combined were oligochaetes, nematodes, the sabellid polychaete Manayunkia aestuarina, copepods, the spionid polychaete Streblospio benedicti, other unknown spionid polychaetes, Hobsonia florida, nereid polychaetes, ceratopogonids, and the anthurid isopod Cyanthura polita. Uncommon taxa at Sawmill Creek included unidentified insect larvae, Turbellaria, Foraminifera, chironomics, ceratopogonids, the anthurid isopods Edotea triloba and Cyathura polita, mites, the collembolan Anurida sp., and the marine bivalve Macoma balthica. Both Raichel (2001) and Yuhas (2001) found that taxomonic diversity of the benthic community in “natural” marshes dominated by common reed was higher than both natural and mitigated cordgrass marshes. Mitigated marshes had a greater abundance of benthic invertebrates than “natural” marshes (Yuhas 2001). This could be a short term response to disturbance associated with wetland manipulation. An interesting finding by Yuhas (2001) was that the benthic community of the 12-year-old mitigated marsh at Mill Creek did not resemble the benthic community of the “natural” marshes at Sawmill Creek. This could be related to salinity differences (MERI, personal communication to EK 2002).
Mud crabs, blue crabs, and fiddler crabs) are widespread in the Hackensack River and its tributaries south of and including Overpeck Creek (NJTA 1986). A density of 1 mud crab (Neopanope texana) per square meter was found in Sawmill Creek WMA (Quinn 1997). Fiddler crabs are found along creeks and the rivers where the muddy banks are exposed during low tide (Quinn 1997). Fiddler crabs, considered scarce in the 1970s, have apparently rebounded from the effects of oil pollution and insecticide contamination (Quinn 1997). In one study, blue crab was confined to the lower and middle reaches of the river, where salinity averaged 9.4 ppt and 5.6 ppt, respectively (Kraus and Bragin 1988). This species is active at both the bottom and within the water column (NJTA 1986). It continues to thrive in some of the most highly stressed environments (NJTA 1986). Blue crabs are locally harvested for food despite advisories against consumption (Quinn 1997).
Zooplankton was sampled at low and high tides during fall and spring along the Hackensack River. One hundred twelve species of protozoa were identified (Jones and Isquith 1981).
On 3 September 2001, EK found a clam-shrimp that was abundant in apparently permanent rain puddles on the surface of the Paterson Lateral gas pipeline road (Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes, proposed Meadowlands Mills development site). Specimens were identified by Robert E. Schmidt (Hudsonia) as Caenestheriella gynecia (Branchiopoda: Cyzicidae). This species, one of only two clam-shrimps known east of the Mississippi River, has been found in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (Smith and Gola 2001). We are unaware of any previous record of C. gynecia in New Jersey. Clam-shrimp are rarely found and are probably rare in the northeastern states, and C. gynecia merits study and conservation. We do not know if this clam-shrimp occurs only on the road, or also on the marshes at Carlstadt-Moonachie, nor do we know if it occurs elsewhere in the Meadowlands.
Terrestrial Invertebrates
“Terrestrial” invertebrates (or insects) refer to those taxa that lack an aquatic immature stage. Hartman and Smith (1999) report preliminary findings for surveys of aquatic and terrestral insects at the marsh mitigation sites located at Skeetkill Creek, Harrier Meadows, and Riverbend. Their samples included 16 families of Coleoptera (beetles), 22 families of Diptera (true flies), 4 families of Hemiptera (true bugs), 4 families of Homoptera (aphids, scale insects, leafhoppers, etc.), 6 families of Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps), one species of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies; the broad-winged skipper, Poanes viator zizaniae), 8 species of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), one family of Orthoptera (grasshoppers, etc.), Psocoptera (psocids or “booklice”), and Trichoptera (caddisflies).
At 16 stations in the tidal and nontidal Carlstadt-Moonachie marshes on 5 October 2000, Grossmueller (2001) sampled macroinvertebrates in the aboveground vegetation by sweep-netting, and in leaf litter by Berlese funnel separation. Sixty orders or families were identified in the sweep net samples, including 5 spider families, 1 taxon of Opiliones (harvestman), 1 mite family, 1 isopod, and a mollusk (slug). Also represented were diverse taxa of insects, especially Aphididae (aphids), Miridae (plant bugs), Cicadellidae (leafhoppers), Culicidae (mosquitoes), Chironomidae (midges), and Platygasteridae (a family of parasitic wasps). Invertebrate richness and density in the sweep net samples were stated to be negatively correlated with reed density and relative abundance; it was not stated whether this pattern was statistically significant. Thirty-seven taxa of invertebrates were identified in the litter samples, including Nematoda, Oligochaeta, Enchytraeidae, Lumbriculidae, Gastropoda (slug), spiders, 7 genera or species of Acarina (mites), Isopoda, Diplopoda (millipedes), Chilopoda (centipedes), and the rest were insects. Mites and Collembola (springtails) were the most abundant taxa. Details of sampling techniques were not presented in this report, and the graphs are difficult to interpret because of illogical scales.
Grossmueller (2001) reported “deer tick” (“Ixodidae,” no genus or species identified), 7 individuals in litter samples from 2 stations. EK has encountered no deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) in the Meadowlands, and the very restricted distribution of white-tailed deer (R. Kane, personal communication to EK) suggests deer ticks would be no more than very locally distributed. EK did find ticks (provisionally identified as Dermacentor variabilis) on Little Snake Hill in 2001. If voucher specimens of ticks from Grossmueller’s (2001) study exist, they should be submitted to a specialist for identification.
Localities in or near the Meadowlands (e.g. Newark, Secaucus, Snake Hill) are listed for a number of butterflies by Gochfeld and Burger (1997). Many old records are cited for “Newark”; however, early naturalists were sometimes imprecise about localities, and it is unclear how wide a radius around Newark might have been included. Some of the more interesting species that occurred, or may have occurred, in the Meadowlands are Edwards’ hairstreak, Harris’ checkerspot, silvery checkerspot, and bronze copper. There is a record from the early 1900s (Gochfeld and Burger 1997:46) of bronze copper in the marshes at Kearny. The larval food plant of bronze copper is curly dock (Rumex crispus) which was documented in the Meadowlands as recently as 1991 (Table 1), thus bronze copper might still occur.
Quinn (2000) describes several areas in the Hackensack Meadowlands, including abandoned landfills and Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, as butterfly “hotspots.” The most common butterfly is the introduced cabbage white. Other species include tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, red admiral, great spangled fritillary, meadow fritillary, eastern tailed blue, common sulphur, mourning cloak, and two unidentified species of skippers (Quinn 2000). (Quinn also mentions “eastern checkerspot,” which we are unable to assign to any species listed for New Jersey by Gochfeld and Burger [1997].) Several species of butterflies are mentioned in Kane and Githens (1997). There is a population of least skipper along Berry’s Creek Canal (EK, personal observation 2001); it would be interesting to know if the larvae are feeding on common reed (least skipper is a grass-feeder, and other grasses appear to be scarce in that area). None of the Fourth of July Butterfly Counts reported by the North American Butterfly Association has been conducted in the Meadowlands area; the closest count is on Staten Island (North American Butterfly Association 2002).
Bees were studied at the Kearny landfill site, comprising 6 ha of upland meadow and young trees, surrounded by common reed, tidal fresh(?) marsh, and exit 15W of the Turnpike (Yurlina 1998). A total of 51 species of mostly native bees was found at this site, including 1 species that was either undescribed or an undocumented introduction. Four “specialist pollinators” were found in association with, respectively, sunflower (Helianthus), ironweed (Vernonia; planted), swamp rose mallow, or cinquefoil (Potentilla). Regarding another study area on Staten Island, Yurlina (1998) stated that pre-existing cavities in stems of plants such as sumacs (Rhus), tree-of-heaven, sunflower, and common reed were suitable nest sites for bees of the genera Bombus (bumblebees), Hylaeus, and Ceratina. We infer that abundance of potential pollen and nectar sources on upland meadows, and abundance of potential nest sites in plants such as sumacs, tree-of-heaven, and reed, may make certain landfills and other filled areas in the Meadowlands suitable habitat for diverse native bee faunas.
The first confirmed location in the United States where the imported coccinellid beetle Coccinella septempunctata had naturalized was in the Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, adjacent to a landfill (Angalet et al. 1979). This ladybug was introduced elsewhere as a biological control of aphids during two attempts in 1958 and 1973; it is not known how the beetle became established in the Meadowlands. During this study, Angalet et al. (1979) identified 26 species of aphids and 17 species of ladybugs in the East Rutherford area. Common reed is the host plant of the mealy plum aphid (Hyalopterus pruni), the most abundant aphid in the Meadowlands (Angalet et al. 1979). The abundance of common reed and mealy plum aphid in the Meadowlands (HMDC 1984; EK, personal observations) presumably help make this region suitable for C. septempunctata. The commercial harvest of ladybugs from the Meadowlands for sale to gardeners and farmers for biological control of aphids, alluded to by Sullivan (1998), may pertain to this species. Aphids and ladybugs were prominent in samples of invertebrates from the marsh surface at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site (Empire Tract) reported in USACOE (2000). Ladybugs are food for mantids, birds, and fish (HMDC 1984, Berger 1992).
The little information available suggests that the terrestrial arthropod fauna of the Meadowlands is reasonably rich for a wetland complex in the New York City region. For example, the pearly wood nymph moth (Eudryas unio, Noctuidae), a fairly common grazer on purple loosestrife leaves in New York and New Jersey, was defoliating loosestrife in a common reed stand on the north side of Paterson Plank Road, 18 September 2000 (EK and KM, personal observations). We observed several species of butterflies nectaring at purple loosestrife in Kearny Marsh West in July 2000. On 14 February 2001, EK collected egg masses of two introduced mantids, Tenodera sinensis and Mantis religiosa (identified by James [Spider] Barbour, Hudsonia Ltd.). Spiders appeared fairly common and diverse in visual observations among reed litter and stubble at the Carlstadt-Moonachie site (EK and KM, personal observations, 18 September 2000). Collections of terrestrial insects from monitoring of wetland mitigation projects are undergoing identification (J. M. Hartman, personal communication to EK, 2001).

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