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Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

The Stillwater wetlands are well-known to birders because of the hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, such as Long-billed dowitcher, Black-necked stilt, and American avocet (above) passing through during migration (in a normal to above average water year). The refuge is an area of International Importance within the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network (external link) 

  • Drought Continues in 2015

    SPR drying500

    Nevada is in a fourth consecutive year of extreme drought in 2015, and Stillwater NWR  - and all water users in the Lahontan Valley - had a very limited water delivery from the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.  As of July, water users received about 20% of their annual allotments, and water deliveries are done for the season.  For Stillwater NWR, this means about 3000 acre-feet of water total were ordered, with all flowing to the refuge sanctuary wetlands south of Division Road.  With evaporative loss in the hot summer months arriving, there is a high likelihood these ponds will be dry by early Fall.  This will have an impact on wildlife, migratory birds and public use of the refuge. We will keep you informed as decisions are made that may affect public use.

    Please be aware of Refuge conditions before traveling; you may see fish, wildlife or birds in distress due to drought conditions and for the most part, there will be nothing that can be done. If you notice unusually large numbers of sick or dead waterbirds, please notify refuge authorities immediately at 775/423-5128.  Low water levels and high temperatures can create prime conditions for water-borne disease and refuge staff will be closely monitoring all wetlands and wildlife this season.

    Wildlife-dependent recreation appropriate for and permitted at Stillwater NWR includes: wildlife observation, hunting, environmental education, interpretation and photography. Even though the drought may impact your visit, there is still much to observe and learn from this wild place.  You will get a chance to observe how the web of life adapts and changes to these extremes. Nature has a way of figuring things out.

    The link below shows a map of current refuge wetlands. Updates will be posted during the season as conditions change. View the latest refuge water levels here. 

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  • Stillwater Sights and Sounds

    yellow headed bb

    Yellow-headed blackbirds are common migrants through the Stillwater marsh in spring and summer. Males stake out territories among the cattails to attract a female and build their nest. Red-wing and Brewers blackbirds also are common, along with thousands of songbirds, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and waterfowl in normal water years.

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  • Pelicans Get the Scoop at Stillwater Fish in Summer


    American White Pelicans spend summers feeding on fish at Stillwater refuge, but nest on Anaho Island NWR (part of the Stillwater NWR Complex) about 60mi away. When water and fish are scarce, pelicans will resort to feeding in canals, drain ditches, stock ponds and wherever else they can find food. Like other birds, their migration patterns may have to adpat to the changing habitat conditionss if not enough food is available.

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  • Water is Life for Wetlands

    resouce mgmt page

    Stillwater NWR is irrigated from the Carson River through a series of canals and delivery ditches, operated by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District in Fallon NV. The refuge is the largest water rights owner in the Lahontan Valley, and has an active Realty division which has Federal authority to purchase water rights from area landowners, through a 'willing seller/buyer' program. This helps to provide water critical to maintaining these unique desert wetlands. 

    In low water years, priority maintenance projects can be completed on water control structures, delivery canals, bridges and access roads. Watch for heavy equipment on the refuge during the week, especially in summer when dry conditions exist.  

    The link connects to an outside website managed by a third party, WQ DataLive, and provides water flow readings from meters placed throughout the Lahontan Valley, including Stillwater NWR and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal wetlands. The USFWS is not responsible for the accuracy data posted on the website.

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Last Updated: Jul 15, 2015
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