Flathead Waterfowl Production Area (WPA)

Flathead WPA Aerial 512x219

West unit of Flathead WPA at low water - viewed from the air. 


Flathead WPA was purchased in the early 1970’s. When purchased, the WPA consisted of approximately 7 miles of shore line and a 400 acre island at the mouth of the Flathead River. Years of wave erosion (due to Kerr Dam) have caused extensive habitat losses. Several miles of wetland habitat along the Lake’s shoreline as well as the delta island at the mouth of the River have eroded resulting in up to a ½ mile wide strip of an open, seasonal “mud flat” beach existing at low lake levels.

Due to documented high bird numbers and diversity, Flathead Lake’s entire north shore was designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Montana Audubon Society in 2009. The IBA Program is a global effort to identify and conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity. Flathead WPA is included within the North Shore Flathead Lake Audubon Important Bird Area. Over 230 species of birds have been documented within the IBA and Flathead WPA supports a wide diversity of birds year round. Bring your favorite bird book as well as your binoculars and/or spotting scopes to take advantage of the amazing bird life on Flathead WPA.

During spring and fall migration Flathead WPA is heavily used by flocks as large as 10’s of thousands of mixed waterfowl species with Northern Pintails, American Wigeon, Tundra Swan and Canada Geese being the most common. Over 20 species of shorebirds have been recorded during spring migration with daily counts in the hundreds. American Avocet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Black-bellied Plover and Long-billed Dowitcher are some of the species recorded every year. The WPA is also a major staging and roosting area for many species of gulls during fall and spring migration with over 5000 birds commonly seen at a time. Two gull species are confirmed breeders – California and Ring-billed. Common, Caspian and Forsters Terns are also present during the breeding season along with at least two species of grebes – Red-necked and Western. During the cold winter months, up to 2000 mixed flocks of diving ducks (Redhead, Canvasback, Greater and Lesser Scaup) and hundreds of Tundra Swans can be spotted just offshore in the open waters of Flathead Lake.

There are four Bald Eagle nesting territories within the WPA as well as several Osprey nest sites. Grassland, riparian and shrubland habitats on the WPA also support nesting Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls as well as an abundance of smaller birds such as Willow Flycatchers, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds and Marsh Wrens.

Please note that Northwest Montana Waterfowl Production Areas are closed to all public access from March 1st to July 15th each year to limit disturbance to nesting birds.
Learn more about the wetland birds of Flathead WPA
North Shore Flathead Lake Audubon Important Bird Area