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Seasons of Wildlife


Much of the monarch butterfly’s life is spent migrating between Canada, Mexico and the U.S., a journey that for some individuals can cover up to 3,000 miles.  During the breeding season monarchs require milkweed plants upon which to rear their larvae and nectar sources to sustain the adults during reproduction. Nectar sources are also required by the butterflies to fuel the fall migration as well as the spring flights northward. Overwintering monarchs require shelter and water.  Monarch butterfly fact sheet.


  • Spring

    Prothonotary Warbler

    April and May are some of the best times to see songbird migration.  Stopping at a boat landing and taking time to scan the treetops can reward a visitor with many species of warblers.  Following the Great River Road on both sides of the river, you will discover one of the many walking trails or decks with spotting scopes to help you view wildlife, but it is always best to bring your own binoculars.

    Spring migration Photo Gallery 

  • Summer

    Heron Rookery

    In the floodplain forest  great blue herons, great egrets and double-crested cormorants nest in rookeries.  Look for groups of American white pelicans feeding in formation or soaring over the refuge.  The sora rail, the laughter of the marsh, is the most common marsh bird. Seldom seen, but often heard, in the early morning or late evening.  Eleven species of frogs and toads sing, chirp, and croak from April to August. Listen for them in the evenings at the marsh.


    Treetop Nesters Photo Gallery- Great blue herons, great egrets and double crested cormorants.

  • Fall

    SOW Swans

    Fall colors are the backdrop for thousands of waterfowl migrating back to their wintering grounds. Migrating tundra swans grace the refuge through freeze-up. During peak fall migration in late October, hundreds of thousands of canvasbacks, common mergansers, goldeneyes, mallards, shovelers, blue-winged teal, and coots gather on the refuge.

    GPS Coordinates for:
    Brownsville Overlook: 43 39.121 N 91 16.488 W (Brownsville, MN)
    Hwy 26 Overlook: 43 37.955 N 91 16.436 W  (Brownsville, MN)

    Tundra Swan Rack Card

  • Fall Flights


     If weather permits, each week during the fall waterfowl migration period, biologists fly over the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge and Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge to estimate bird use. These surveys are completed through the cooperative efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,  Wisconsin Department  of Natural Resources, and Illinois Natural History Survey.

    Learn More
  • Winter

    winter animal track

    Tracks in snow remind you that winter is alive with activity.  A track made by otter sliding on the ice or a deer path across the ice are often discovered on a winter outing.     Hundreds of wintering bald eagles congregate near open water snatching fish with their talons and soaring to to the treetops to eat their prey.

    Wintering bald eagle photo gallery.

    Bald Eagle Rack Card

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2014
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