audubon.org/field-guide/bird/least-bittern

Nature and Ecology

The Orange River watershed is a focus area of statewide ecological significance.

Text from Downeast Coastal Conservancy:

The Orange River is one of the least developed coastal river systems left on the east coast. Historically, runs of alewives, brook trout and other sea-run fish enriched the ecosystem and the economy of the local region. A group of government and nonprofit organizations, including DCC, are working to restore fish passage at a series of dams in the Orange River watershed.

The marshes and wetlands that fringe the river provide excellent habitat for nesting ducks, as well as beavers, muskrat, otters, mink and many other kinds of animals. Please be respectful of birds on nests or with young if you visit in the spring or early summer. There have been sightings of Least Bittern, which are listed as an endangered species in Maine.

The uplands around the Orange River support the full range of wildlife found in this part of Maine, from mayflies to moose. DCC’s most recently conserved parcel once provided critical wintering habitat for deer, but it was heavily harvested by a former owner.

Text from Maine DACF:

This 600+ acre complex of wetlands and uplands is one of the region’s more important Inland Wading Bird and Waterfowl Habitats, providing undisturbed nesting habitat and undisturbed, uncontaminated feeding areas that are essential for maintaining viable waterfowl and wading bird populations. Two rare bird species, the Endangered least bittern and the Special Concern bald eagle have been documented in the focus area as well.

The Orange River Focus Area provides one of the region’s more important areas of Inland Waterfowl and Wading Bird Habitat. Wetlands that provide wading bird and waterfowl habitat provide undisturbed nesting habitat and uncontaminated feeding areas and are essential for maintaining viable waterfowl and wading bird populations.

Maine’s location at the southern limit of some species range and the northern limit of others gives it a unique mix of waterfowl (ducks and geese) and wading birds (herons, egrets, bitterns, ibises, coots, moorhens, and rails). These species are an important part of Maine’s natural heritage, they contribute to the state’s biodiversity, they support recreational opportunities such as wildlife watching, and many are important game species.


In addition to wading bird and waterfowl habitat, the state Endangered least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) was documented from Reynold’s Brook in June, 1999. Two birds (assumed to be a pair) were observed in a patch of cat-tails just south of Route 1 (outside but adjacent to the WMA). A member of the heron family, the very secretive least bittern inhabits large marshes with dense vegetation. The numbers of these birds have declined due to loss of habitat.

A Deer Wintering Area has been identified just east of Little Lake as well. Deer congregate in wintering areas which provide reduced snow depths, ample food and protection from wind. The Orange River, Lively Brook and Reynolds Brook support high value brook trout fisheries as well.

Ecological Services of the Focus Area

  • Provides high quality habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, deer, and other wildlife.
  • Supports regional biodiversity by providing habitat for rare animals.
  • Contributes to water quality and ecological integrity of the region.
  • Provides nursery habitat for fish and other aquatic animals

Economic Contributions of the Focus Area

  • Contributes to recreational value of the region by protecting water quality, fisheries, and wildlife habitat.
  • Attracts tourism to the area and serves as a valuable recreational resource.
  • Provides wildlife habitat for a number of game species that are seasonally important to Maine’s rural economy.
  • Provides scenic vistas.