Winter (mid-November through late January)
Thousands of snow geese, Ross’s geese, and sandhill cranes spend the night in water
to protect themselves from predators. Near dawn, the geese take off en masse in search of fields throughout
the Middle Rio Grande Valley to feed in for the day. Smaller groups of sandhill
cranes then leave the safety of the water for the same reason. Check the
sunrise time and stop in our visitor center to learn the most recent roosting
and feeding sites, as they can change through the winter.
addition to viewing cranes and geese and many species of ducks, you can drive
the auto tour loop or hike the trails and see hawks, eagles, blackbirds,
ravens, coots, and other birds along with occasional mammals, such as mule
deer, coyotes, and jackrabbits. Check in with the visitor center staff for
Spring (mid-February through mid-May)
The wetlands that were home to thousands of ducks, geese, and cranes all winter
are slowly emptied of water in the spring, providing prime feeding grounds for
migrating sandpipers, stilts, plovers, dunlins, curlews, avocets, and twenty
other shorebird species. Spring wildflowers add a bit more color to the
landscape, and greater roadrunners dart across and alongside the auto tour loop
and Highway 1 in search of sluggish lizards and snakes.
is also when flycatchers, vireos, and a dozen species of warblers filter
through, either as a rest stop on migration or as they determine the best
locations for their nesting territories on the refuge.
Summer (mid-May through mid-September)
Summer is the time to see the colorful antics of black-chinned, calliope,
broad-tailed, and rufous hummingbirds. The flowers of spring transition to the
fruits of summer, especially in the desert arboretum. Also look for the many
young birds moving around the refuge. Some, like the quail, scurry around in
long lines of a dozen or more.
and evenings are good times to view wildlife in the heat of the summer – most
creatures will seek shade in the middle of the day. Near waterways are good
places to search for wildlife and signs of wildlife (such as tracks).
Fall (mid-September through
Late season sunflowers are a colorful contrast to the red-winged blackbirds
that swoop and dart through the grasses. The first cranes and geese typically
show up at the end of October, during which time coyotes, mule deer, and
javelina are moving through open fields as well. Wild turkeys begin moving to
the northern part of the refuge to join up with other family groups in separate
male and female roosting flocks.
Dabbler Deck or Willow Deck are good places to take a break and search for
ducks dabbling in the water for food, especially the northern shovelers and
You can always call or stop
in our visitor center for the most recent sightings. Take a look at our webpage,
as Visitor Center hours can change seasonally.