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Seasons of Wildlife

Northern pintails over the Refuge (Photo by Josh Kelly)

The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds from both the Pacific and Central Flyway of North America. This area contains abundant food for birds.  Birds come to the Refuge by the millions to eat and rest during migration.  

  • Spring / Migration

    Western meadowlark singing in spring

    In the spring, Bear River is active with life as birds fly back from the south.  There is a continuous flow of different species in and out of the refuge.  Each day offers something new.  Birds are in their bright and colorful breeding plumage and the observant visitor can witness eons-old courtship rituals.  Geese and ducks begin to arrive in early March.  Shorebird migration lasts from early April through mid-May.

  • Summer / Breeding & Nesting

    Pied-billed grebe, a Refuge breeding species

    While some birds head further north to breed, over 60 species stay at Bear River through the summer to breed and raise their young.  Baby birds can be seen as early as May when the Canada goose goslings make their debut.  Later in June and July, visitors can view ducklings and young shorebirds such as American avocets and black-necked stilts.  In July, the sight of young western grebes riding atop their parents' backs is especially exciting.

  • Fall / Migration

    Common goldeneye winging low over Refuge waters

    Beginning in July, shorebirds come back through the refuge on their way south and numbers peak in mid-August.  Up to a half million ducks and geese concentrate on the refuge units.  Over 30,000 tundra swans begin to arrive in mid-October and stay through December.


  • Winter / Residents & Visitors

    Rough-legged hawk, winter visitor to Refuge grasslands

    From December to March, northern harriers, rough-legged hawks and prairie falcons frequent the marsh, searching the frozen land for prey.  Bald eagles use the refuge in the winter for feeding and resting during the day. For more information on the which birds are on the Refuge and our Monthly Bird Happenings fact sheet.

Last Updated: May 03, 2017
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