Wildlife & Habitat

American avocets in gentle breeding dance

The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds (like the American avocets above) from both the Pacific and Central Flyway of North America. This area contains abundant food for birds, including very important brine shrimp and other macroinvertebrates as well as necessary plants like sago pondweed.  Birds come to the Refuge by the millions to eat and rest during migration, and many other species stay to breed, nest and raise their young across the Refuge wetlands. Several of the Refuge's priority species are listed and pictured below, or download a full list of the Refuge's Priority Species.

  • White-faced ibis

    White-faced Ibis

    As part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, the Refuge now hosts the largest colony of White-faced ibis in North America. The wet meadows and mudflats on and surrounding the Refuge are excellent feeding habitat and bring the ibis in from April through October, and the deep emergent marshes provide nesting habitat for the colony throughout the summer.

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  • American white pelican

    American White Pelican (1)

    While the Refuge is mainly used for foraging, the greater Great Salt Lake ecosystem colony of American white pelican is one of the three largest North America. But the proximity of the excellent fishing on Refuge wetlands to the pelican colony is not to be discounted.

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  • Snowy plover

    Snowy Plover

    The remote and undisturbed drying mudflats, near water sources, are excellent feeding habitat for the diminutive Snowy Plover. The Refuge and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem host over 50% of the North American population.

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  • Black-necked stilt

    Black-necked Stilt (1)

    While the Refuge hosts only 2-3% of the continental breeding population of Black-necked stilt, nearly 80% of the migrating population uses the Refuge and Great Salt Lake wetlands as an important stopover site.

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  • Cinnamon teal

    Cinnamon Teal pair

    Northern Utah's wetlands, including the Refuge, host up to 60% of the continental breeding population of Cinnamon teal. The Refuge wetlands and neighboring fine-structured grasslands provide necessary feeding and nesting habitat.

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  • Tundra swan

    Tundra Swan pair

    The deeper waters along the northwest boundary of the Refuge and neighboring Bear River Club provide important stopover feeding habitat for flocks of migrating Tundra swan.  These flocks, sometimes in numbering upwards of 60,000, find the sago pondweed, a submerged aquatic plant, nearly irresistable.

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