Wildlife and Habitat
This area once had a broad collection of habitats and thus, a diversity of species. Natural wetlands such as sloughs and oxbows were flanked by riparian areas. Many species of migratory waterfowl and nongame birds such as rails, Savannah sparrows, and northern harriers used the wetlands for feeding and nesting activities.
Native shrub-steppe, characterized by big sage, greasewood, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush, and native bunchgrasses once covered the upland areas. Loggerhead shrikes, long-billed curlews, sage thrashers, Brewer’s and sage sparrows, burrowing owls, and California quails are only some of the animals that use the shrub-steppe.
The combination of habitats was, and continues to be, a natural magnet to both resident and migratory wildlife. Seasonal changes in the habitats result in a change in numbers and diversity of wildlife using the Refuge through the year. In spring, many shorebirds probe the exposed mudflats in the wetlands. Waterbirds also wade through the shallow seasonal wetlands in search of food. Phalaropes, dowitchers, yellowlegs and western, least and spotted sandpipers are a few of the shorebird migrants seen here. Other spring migrants such as swans, lesser and Taverner’s Canada geese, and many species of ducks forage and rest on Refuge wetlands.
Many birds like the great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, bittern, sora, and Virginia rail nest on Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. American avocet, killdeer, snipe, and long-billed curlew also breed here.
Some ducks—mallards, gadwall, cinnamon teal, and wood ducks—also nest here. Great horned, long-eared, short-eared, and burrowing owls are known to nest on the refuge along with kestrels, red-tailed hawk, and northern harriers. Other raptors using the refuge include: bald and golden eagles, rough-legged and ferruginous hawks, peregrine and prairie falcons, and sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks.