Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, Franklin County, Vermont

About Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

This 6,729-acre federal wildlife refuge hugs the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in Franklin County, northwestern Vermont. It includes most of the Missisquoi River delta where it flows into Missisquoi Bay. The refuge protects quiet waters and food-rich wetlands that attract large flocks of migrating waterfowl. Upland areas are a mix of old fields, shrubby habitat, and northern hardwood forest.

Ring-necked ducks, green-winged teal, black ducks, mallards, northern harriers, short-eared owls, snipe, woodcock, shorebirds, and a wide range of songbirds breed on and pass through the refuge each year. The refuge includes the Shad Island great blue heron rookery, the largest such colony in Vermont.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Along with providing waterfowl habitat, creating young forest for woodcock and other birds has been a priority on the Missisquoi, with habitat-improvement efforts taking place on many parts of the refuge.

Photo of apple tree/woodcock habitat

Woodcock probe for earthworms in the rich soil beneath apple trees on Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.

A 50-acre upland area fringes the Stephen J. Young Marsh, south of the refuge headquarters along Tabor Road. Here, managers have cut about 20 acres of hardwood forest in 100-foot-wide strips of varying lengths. The most recent cutting took place in 2004-05. Cutting will continue at 8- to 10-year intervals over the next 25 to 30 years, creating alternating bands of different-aged forest to meet all woodcock habitat needs. Much of the regrowth in the area is aspen, a tree species that woodcock readily use for feeding, nesting, and brood-rearing.

Many apple trees grow near the Stephen Young Marsh. (Woodcock often probe for earthworms in the rich soil beneath apple trees.) Workers annually mow a grassy corridor through the area to keep it open and functioning as woodcock singing and courtship habitat. Also, nearby fields are being allowed to grow up in shrubs, including many viburnums and dogwoods. These dense, low-growing plants provide resting and feeding cover for woodcock, and their energy-rich fruits fuel migrating songbirds.


This site offers both displaying and roosting habitat to woodcock.

Managers have made strip and patch cuts on 60 acres of a red maple-green ash swamp near the Maquam Creek and Black Creek Nature Trails, to provide singing-ground, nesting, and foraging habitat for woodcock. Other species benefitting from the young forest include brown thrasher, gray catbird, Canada warbler, black-billed cuckoo, rufous-sided towhee, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer. The most recent cuts, on 30 acres, were made in 2004-05; cutting will continue in the future on a 10-year rotational cycle.

Woodcock also use scrub-shrub habitat ringing Maquam Bog. In this area, the refuge staff plans to maintain more than 500 acres in a shrub-scrub state. Alders, willows, dogwoods, and birches grow in these shrublands.

Along both sides of Vermont Route 78, where it enters the refuge on the east, 132 acres of grassland in seven separate fields will be allowed to revert to shrubby habitat ideal for woodcock and other young-forest wildlife.

Funding and Partners

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The headquarters building for the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is approximately five miles northwest of Swanton. Take Vermont Route 78 out of Swanton and turn left on Tabor Road; the headquarters is on the left. The Stephen J. Young Marsh (farther south along Tabor Road) is an excellent demonstration area for habitat management techniques that benefit woodcock. A nature trail gives access to the area.

Brochures and directions can be obtained at the headquarters, open 8 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday and 10 AM to 2 PM Saturday, year round. (The office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays in winter). For more information, contact biologist Dave Frisque at 802-868-4781, Dave_Frisque@fws.gov. For general refuge information, see www.fws.gov/northeast/missisquoi/