The Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR is geographically located within the southwestern
edge of the Colorado zone of the Sonoran Desert biome. This location, coupled
with an elevation of 227 feet below sea level, results
in extremely low annual precipitation and extremely high day time temperatures.
Despite the harsh environmental
conditions, the Salton Sea supports one of the most diverse avian compositions
in the United States as well as a host of endangered and other wildlife species.
Endangered and Threatened Species
Refuge Wildlife Species List (pdf, 8.48MB)
Bird List - text only (pdf, 166KB)
Habitat diversity on Refuge lands provides for the needs of resident wildlife
species as well as numerous seasonal residents and migrants of the Pacific
Flyway. Over 400 bird species have been recorded at the Refuge and
at least 93 species have nested on the Refuge. In addition, 41 species
18 species of reptiles, 4 species of amphibians and 15 species of fish have
been identified in the area.
Numbers and species of birds that can be seen on the Refuge vary according
to season. Heavy migrations of waterfowl, marsh and shorebirds occur during
spring and fall. Throughout the mild winter and spring a wide variety of
songbirds and birds of prey are present. They are attracted to the freshwater
and riparian habitat along the New and Alamo rivers. The greatest number
of species are present from November to May.
Common Species found at the Salton
Common species of mammals found on the Refuge include:
cottontail >>>>>>>>''* Merriam's
* raccoon >>>>>>>>>>>>>'''*
Valley pocket gopher
* coyote >>>>>>>>>>>>>>'''*
* striped skunk >>>>>>>>>>''*
Desert pocket mouse
Visibility varies greatly from species to species due to the nocturnal habits
of some and seasonal hibernation of others. Most rodent species exist in terrestrial
habitats where they provide important food resources for raptors and other predators.
During winter months, rodents provide food for heron and egret species as well.
Muskrats are present in freshwater drains and ponds where their feeding and burrowing
activities help maintain marsh habitats for various other wildlife species.
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to environmental factors, amphibians are not found in large numbers or diversity
Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR. Species occurring
on the Refuge include bullfrogs
(Rana catesbeiana) and lowland leopard frogs (Rana yavapaiensis). Lowland
leopard frogs respond well to shallow, permanent wetland habitat created
for the Yuma clapper
rail. They are not present elsewhere on the Refuge due to competition from
exotic bullfrogs. Woodhouse’s toad (Bufo woodhousii) and red-spotted
toads (Bufo punctatus) are also found on the Refuge.
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Many different species of reptiles occur on the Refuge. Common species include
the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer), western diamondback (Crotalus atrox),
coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum), common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula),
(Cnemidophorus sp.), desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister) and side-blotched
lizard (Uta stansburiana). The spiny soft-shell turtle (Trionyx spiniferus)
and the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)
are also found on the Refuge. Spiny soft-shell turtles are found in freshwater
drains and ponds, while
the desert tortoise, although rarely seen, can be found in the upland desert
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Fish populations thrive in the Salton Sea. The aquatic ecosystem is extremely
productive because of the large amounts of nutrients it receives. The nutrients
stimulate growth of phytoplankton and algae, which in turn, support zooplankton
and worms. All of this provides a continuing supply of food for fish. Periodically,
decomposition of large algal blooms diminishes the dissolved oxygen in the
water. This decomposition has been tied to occasional fish die-offs that
occur throughout the year.
Tilapia is the most common
fish found in the Salton Sea. Tilapia is the most populous fish
in the Sea due to its ability to adapt to highly saline conditions and the
fact that it is a prolific breeder. Tilapia are an important food source
for birds and other fish, along with being a popular game fish. They
can weigh more than 3 pounds.
The endangered desert pupfish, while present in the Sea, is rarely
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