Providing nesting habitat
for migratory birds is the primary purpose of the Refuge. Waterfowl are the most conspicuous, with
their colorful breeding plumage and aerial courtship displays. Canvasback, Mallard, and Lesser Scaup ducks, among other waterfowl species, reproduce here.
The South Marsh provides some of the best nesting habitat west of the
Mississippi River for Canvasbacks. The once endangered Trumpeter Swan,
originally transplanted between 1947 and 1958 from Red Rock Lakes National
Wildlife Refuge in Montana, is also found at Ruby Lake. Several pairs
nest and raise young each year and 40 or more birds may winter here, joined by
hundreds of Tundra Swans.
In all, 15 species of
waterfowl nest on this refuge as well as a variety of other water-dependent
birds such as coots, grebes, sandhill cranes, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned
Night Herons, White-faced Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, avocets, Yellow-headed
Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats, and Marsh Wrens. Long-billed Curlew nest in the meadows along
with Gadwall ducks and Cinnamon Teal. Sage
Grouse nest in the sagebrush shrub steppe and forage in meadows and grasslands
where Burrowing Owls raise their young in abandoned badger dens.
Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles,
American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, and
Prairie Falcons are present at various times of the year. Numerous
songbirds including Yellow Warblers and Bullock’s Orioles use the willows
bordering the Collection Ditch and riparian habitat near refuge headquarters
along Cave Creek. Several first
occurrence records for Nevada have been documented here including a record
sighting of a White Wagtail in 2011.
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Relict Dace, the only native species of fish at Ruby Lake, has reduced and hybridized populations due to introduction of several non-native species. A project is underway to preserve the biological integrity of the Relict Dace.