The Haw River is home to numerous threatened and endangered species including the Cape Fear Shiner, the Bald Eagle, and the Yellow Lampmussel. The Cape Fear Shiner is a small fish found nowhere else in the world beyond the Cape Fear River Basin in the NC Piedmont. The Yellow Lampmussel is a filter feeder, which are critical organisms for maintaining water quality; it also provides food for other freshwater organisms. Little is known about the life history of the threatened Eastern Creekshell, another freshwater mussel found in the Haw. Because mussels have limited mobility, they are especially vulnerable to habitat lass and water quality degradation.
While national populations of Bald Eagles have recovered and the species was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, these magnificent birds are still fairly rare in this region of North Carolina. The Bald Eagle prefers mature forest away from heavily developed areas and near bodies of water. They are still threatened by a variety of factors, including development-related destruction of their habitat. Sightings of Bald Eagles are fairly common along the Haw River.
Throughout the region, the loss of open land due to urbanization and the fragmentation of remaining green space is disrupting the natural patterns of our native wildlife. The Environmental Literacy Council notes that habitat loss and degradation, as well as pollution, are leading threats to endangered species. A critical strategy to maintaining functional ecosystems is the preservation of natural corridors that knit the landscape together. River corridors provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, and provide “wildlife highways,” allowing migration between open spaces. The fauna of the Haw River depend on the habitat and water purity provided by the river buffers we are working to conserve.
Other interesting wildlife you can expect to see along the Haw River includes the Belted Kingfisher, the Great Blue Heron, the Osprey, the American Otter and the American Mink. Coyotes, bobcats, and foxes abound but are rarely seen. The river itself is also home to a variety of sport fish species.
Sources & Further Reading
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology- All About Birds- The Bald Eagle
- US Fish & Wildlife Service- Bald & Golden Eagle Information
Cape Fear Shiner
- US Fish & Wildlife Service- Cape Fear Shiner Fact Sheet
- NC Wildlife Resources Commission- Cape Fear Shiner