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Northern Harrier flying
Northern Harrier © Kyle Wilmarth

Important Bird Area: Brewster Ponds and Woodlands

Map of the Brewster Ponds and Woodlands IBA site

Nominated By

Blair Nikula


4,800+ acres

Towns and Counties

Brewster; Barnstable


town of Brewster, Nickerson State Park

Major Habitats

45% pitch pine/scrub oak forest, 38% lake/pond, 10% oak-conifer transitional forest, 5% shrub-scrub wetland, 2% early successional shrubland

Land Use

nature & wildlife, conservation/ land trust, hunting & fishing, other recreation, water supply, utility

Serious Threats

residential/ commercial development

Minor Threats

cowbird parasitism, succession, recreation development/overuse

IBA Criteria

  • Category 2: Sites important for long-term research and/or monitoring projects that contribute substantially to ornithology, bird conservation, and/or education.
  • Category 5: Waterfowl: The site regularly supports 500 or more waterfowl at any one time. The designation "waterfowl" includes birds such as loons, grebes, cormorants, geese, ducks, coots, and moorhens.

Site Description

The site is located primarily in the town of Brewster. The woodlands are typical coastal plain pine/oak with Pitch Pine and various oaks predominating, and lesser quantities of White Pine, American beech, and assorted other species. The area includes five ponds: Long Pond (743 acres), Upper Mill Pond (253 acres), Hinckley's Pond (171 acres), Seymour Pond (181 acres), and Cliff Pond (193 acres).

Current Conservation Status

The area consists of the 2,900-acre Punkhorn Parklands Conservation Area, and the 1,955-acre Nickerson State Park, which are Town and State-preserved conservation lands. Recreational use (i.e., powerboats) on Long Pond and Cliff Pond is quite heavy during the summer, but not during the period when waterfowl are present. However, the impact of this usage on water quality may be an issue. A decline in water quality in Long Pond has been documented over the past few years. Brewster and Harwich have begun to address the issue, though it is unclear how the problem can be mitigated.

Ornithological Significance

Point count surveys indicate significant breeding populations of five, regional, high conservation priority species, and the presence of the Northern Parula, a state threatened species. Waterfowl surveys indicate that the ponds within the area host large numbers of migrant/wintering waterfowl. This site is the location for several long-term monitoring projects.

Other Flora or Fauna of Significance

Nickerson State Park's smaller ponds host substantial populations of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata), including at least four state-listed species.

Data Sources

Cape Cod Lake & Pond Waterfowl Survey (1984-2001)

Cape Cod Christmas Bird Count (1930-2001)

Breeding Bird Point Counts conducted by Nikula 1990-200

B. Nikula, personal observation.