The Benefits of Heinz Site

By Frank Graham Jr./Photograph by John McGrail

Nature forever fights back against the city, pushing seedlings up through sidewalk cracks, slipping hawks in among the high-rises. Where urban dwellers have the will, the fugitive wildness may blossom again. And so Philadelphians have the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, named in 1991 after the late U.S. senator who helped save the area.

Tinicum's original tidal marshes totaled more than 5,700 acres, but draining for grazing and development left only 200 acres after World War II. What's more, the plan was to run I-95 through the remnants. But Congress voted to restore the site, the state's largest freshwater tidal wetlands, to 1,200 acres. Today more than 300 bird species, including herons, egrets, shorebirds, and waterfowl, nest here or stop over on migration. Families visit its $5 million Cusano Environmental Education Center, hike 10 miles of trails, and watch wildlife from canoes, an observation platform, and a boardwalk. The first annual Cradle of Birding, Wildlife and Conservation Festival will be held at the refuge on September 18. (The next day there will be a bird walk at the Millgrove Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, John James Audubon’s first American homestead.)

Designated in 1996 as an Important Bird Area, this genuine survivor is only a mile from Philadelphia International Airport and just off I-95.

For information, call 215-365-3118 or go to http://heinz.fws.gov/.


For information on Audubon's Important Bird Areas program, visit www.audubon.org, go to Birds & Science/Bird Conservation, and pull down to Important Bird Areas.


© 2004 National Audubon Society

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field guide

By 1980 the American black duck (Anas rubripes), long the duck for northeastern hunters, had become a species of concern. Besides intense hunting pressure, it was beset by polluted waterways, lost habitat, and competition from its close relative, the mallard. That midwestern cousin, released from game farms and spreading east into parks and forest clearings, hybridizes with the black duck and threatens to swamp it genetically. Although today the American black duck seems to be holding its own, key Atlantic Flyway IBAs like the Heinz refuge provide vital havens.