William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region

Wildlife & Habitat

The 5,325 acres of William L. Finley NWR protect fine examples of many of the Willamette Valley’s historic habitats. Fields of wildlife food crops are interspersed with Oregon white oak savanna, meandering creeks with bottomland Oregon ash forest, mature big-leaf maple in mixed coniferous forest and native prairie.

Click here to view the Seasonal Bird Checklist for the Complex.

Click here to view the most recent Wildlife Sightings report (May 1, 2012).

Wetlands - includes creeks, ponds and seasonal marshes

Turtle Flats on William L. Finley NWR

With the depleting number of wetland habitats in the Willamette Valley, William L. Finley NWR is a great way to see what the valley once looked like. The wetlands on the refuge provide a sanctuary for wintering waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds. Cabell Marsh and McFadden Marsh are the two largest wetland habitats on the

refuge and will hold water throughout the year. Smaller ponds that are worth visiting are Beaver Pond, Cattail Pond, Finger Ponds and Display Pond.

Many trails on the refuge allow excellent views of these different habitats. McFadden Marsh Observation Blind is a great way to observe many different species on the marsh. Head to Cabell Marsh Kiosk and look through the viewing scope to spot wildlife on the marsh.  Hike the new Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk to the Observation Blind for an upclose look at water birds, geese, bald eagles, and other wildlife.

Wetland Birds, Animals and Plants

Birds: Canada Geese, mallard, Northern pintail, and great blue heron

Animals: Red-legged frog, Pacific tree frog, beaver, and Roosevelt elk 

Plants: Broad-leafead pondweed, water plantain, American sloughgrass, Englemann's spikerush


Riparian Forest

Riparian forest on the banks of Cabell marsh

Along Muddy Creek and Gray Creek on William L. Finley NWR is where you will find a riparian forest habitat. The plants that live in this area are accustomed to flooding in the winter and low water levels in the summer. They have adapted to be able to live in the harsh environment of the riparian forest. The dense understory of this habitat provides refuge for many different types of wildlife. Many birds build nests among the thick brush and shrubs along the banks of the creek. Beaver are commonly seen along the creeks building dens and playing in the water. Keep an eye out for a river otter that might be swimming in the water. There are nest boxes along the creek that provide homes for many different species of wildlife. Wood ducks, warblers and downy woodpeckers are some of the species that use the nest boxes.

Riparian Forest Birds, Animals and Plants

Birds: Wood duck, hooded merganser, great horned owl, northern flicker

Animals: Beaver, river otter, rough-skinned newt, black-tailed deer

Plants: Oregon ash, lady fern, skunk cabbage, salmonberry, thimbleberry



Upland Forest

Fall colors located on Maple Knoll

A mix of douglas fir, Oregon white oak and big-leaf maple trees make up the upland forest habitats on the refuge. This mixture of trees allows for a variety of animals and plants to live in this habitat.  Mill Hill Loop and Woodpecker Loop trails take you through upland forest habitats. In the summer the canopy provides shade and cooler temperatures along the trail. Many migratory songbirds spend time in the upland forest during their migration. Along the edge of the trail you will see sword ferns, wild rose, Oregon grape and Himalayan blackberry.

Upland Forest Birds, Animals, and Plants

Birds: Common bushtit, dark-eyed junco, pileated woodpecker, red-breasted nuthatch

Animals: Townsends chipmunk, Western grey squirrel, deer mouse, raccoon

Plants: Douglas fir, Oregon white oak, big leaf maple, snowberry, wild rose, poison oak


Grasslands - includes brush and hedgerows

Typical planted grassland crop on William L. Finley NWR

Many different types of crops are grown on the refuge to provide browse for wintering waterfowl. They like to feed on the short, tender new growth that follows the fall rains. In turn, waterfowl browsing stimulates the grass to grow more rapidly. By the time the birds leave on their spring migration, the fields are thick with strong new shoots of grass. Other wildlife species benefit from the bushy edges and hedgerows that are left around the farm fields. Many of these animals feed in the fields but seek cover and protection from predators among the thick bushes around the edges.

Grassland Birds, Animals, and Plants

Birds: California quail, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, red-winged blackbird

Animals: Gray-tailed vole, coyote, red fox, Roosevelt elk, brush rabbit, common garter snake

Plants: Ryegrass, tall fescue, annual ryegrass, corn, hawthorn


Oak Savanna

Oak savanna habitat located on Bald Top at William L. Finley NWR

Oak savanna habitats were a common sight in the Willamette Valley during the period that the Kalapuya Indians lived here. Scattered large Oregon white oak trees on dry grassy hillsides made up the typical oak savanna. Many of these habitats were cleared and turned into agricultural fields when white settlers moved into the valley. Now one of the last remaining oak savanna habitats is present on Bald Top on William L. Finley NWR. The broad, spreading shapes of the Oregon white oak indicate they grew without competition from other trees for space and light.  Currently prescribed burns and removal of non-native species allows the oak trees to continue to grow without any competition.

Oak Savanna Birds, Animals and Plants

Birds: White-breasted nuthatch, American goldfinch, Western bluebird, acorn woodpecker, Northern harrier

Animals: California ground squirrel, gray fox, bobcat, camas pocket gopher, grey-tailed vole

Plants: Oregon white oak, large camas, field cluster lily, Nelsons checkermallow



Native Prairie

North prairie located on William L. Finley NWR

The prairies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley were once widespread in the valley bottom. They remained open because of prairie burning by the native Kalapuya prior to Euro-American settlement. As the burning stopped by the 1830's the prairies were invaded by woody species and non-native weeds brought in by settlers. Many areas were developed for agriculture and urban uses. Today much less than one percent of the native prairies remain. William L. Finley has one of, if not the largest, continuous tract of native prairie habitat within the Willamette Valley. Active restoration is continually going on to preserve the last remaining native prairie habitat. Many endangered and threatened plant and animal species rely on the native prairie habitat for survival. 

Native prairie Birds, Animals and Plants

Birds: Western meadowlark, Lazuli bunting, barn swallow, cliff swallow, Northern harrier

Animals: Oregon vole, coyote, shrew mole, raccoon

Plants: Tufted hairgrass, silver hairgrass, farewell-to-spring, peacock larkspur, yellow monkey flower



Last updated: May 1, 2012