A green jay perches at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 400 bird species have been documented. The refuge is 30 miles northeast of Brownsville, Texas. Photo by Mike Carlo/USFWS
Some people gladly awaken at 4 a.m. and drive hours to glimpse a rare Kirtland’s warbler. Other people barely know a robin from a bald eagle, but they love to walk outdoors. For both types – experienced birders and newbies alike – national wildlife refuges are wonderful places to see birds in natural habitat.
This week’s Refuge System photo essay, Wildlife Refuges: Where the Birds Are, features three refuges that are great for newbies, three that are great for experienced birders, and three refuge pairs that could suit bird nerds and neophytes.
A roseate spoonbill seems to ponder its next move at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s northwest coast, 20 miles north of Tallahassee. Photo by Craig Kittendorf/USFWS
Refuges well suited to novices “provide some combination of accessible trails, roads, structures and facilities offering opportunities to observe and hear interesting wild birds,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranger Mike Carlo. “These refuges tend to have knowledgeable staff and online resources that welcome causal birders; offer loaner field guides and binoculars to visitors; and schedule introductory experiences that highlight year-round or seasonal birdlife.”
Red knots are common at and near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, about 15 miles north of Rehoboth Beach. Photo by Gregory Breese/USFWS
Experienced birders might be looking for something more.
They “often visit refuges to improve their birding skills, to have the chance to observe uncommon birds and perhaps add new species to their life lists,” Carlo says. “They tend to choose birding locations that provide widespread access and excellent bird habitat, and are near other birding hotspots.”
An American white pelican takes off at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, 60 miles north of downtown Salt Lake City. Photo by Roger Lewis
Wildlife Refuges: Where the Birds Are is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly photo essays that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. A new photo essay is posted on the Refuge System home page each Wednesday. The essays are archived here.