Legislation in 1921 established the National Bison Range as a refuge for native birds. Over 211 species have been documented on the Refuge. The native Palouse prairie is an important breeding area for grassland birds, which are on the decline throughout much of the United States. Beside commonly seen western meadowlarks and vesper sparrows, visitors can catch a glimpse of less common grasshopper and clay colored sparrows. Other species of interest to bird watchers include dusky grouse, gray partridge, and Lewis’ woodpecker.While spring is usually considered the prime birding time, the Bison Range and much of the Mission Valley are important wintering areas for birds migrating from Canadian tundra and taiga forests. Rough-legged hawks are commonly sighted during the winter along with northern shrikes, Bohemian waxwings and Townsend’s solitaires.In general, the shorter Prairie Drive and West Loop travel through the grassland. Red Sleep Mountain Drive gains 2,000 feet in elevation along its 19-mile route, traversing grassland, shrubland, forest, and stream-side habitats along the way, providing diverse settings for birdlife. The Nature Trail, and the nearby Day Use Area, provide an open treed area, large cottonwoods, ponds and stream-side settings for birds along an easy, 1-mile trail, parts of which are accessible. For details in which habitats to look for the birds of the Bison Range as well as best seasons, check out the NBR bird list.
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All it takes is the sight of red calves dotting the early spring landscape to understand that the Fish and Wildlife Service mission “for future generations” does not just refer to people.