Seasons of Wildlife

Common Night Hawk 512 x 213

The climate of the Bowdoin NWR is characterized by cold, dry winters and warm, dry summers.  Temperature extremes range from 1130 F in the summer to -600 F in the winter.

  • Spring

    Waterfowl 150 x 118

    As the snow recedes and the wetlands begin to thaw the first migratory birds begin to appear.  The more noticeable "early birds" are the ducks and geese.  Canada geese arrive in late February and immediately begin to set up their territories.  By March the first mallards and northern pintails begin to arrive, followed by other duck species such as gadwall, American wigeon, northern shovler, canvasback and lesser scaup.  The shorebirds come through this area mid-April through mid-May.  The arrival of songbirds varies from species to species.  For example western meadowlarks arrive in early March while Baird's sparrows not until April.

    The best time of the year to come bird watching is mid-April through mid-May to view most of the migratory birds travelling up through the central flyway returning to their natal area, such as Bowdoin NWR, or on their way north to their breeding grounds, as far as Alaska.

    Nesting begins shortly after their arrival.  The earliest nesters are Canada geese, mallards, and northern pintail.  All three teal species, blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon, nest on the refuge.

    Some examples of uplands nesting birds found on the refuge are mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, northern shoveler, and blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon teal, northern phalarope, marbled godwit, willet, short-eared owl, and on occassion northern harrier.

    For a complete bird list for the refuge click on "learn more" below.

    Learn More
  • Summer

    Pelican Chicks 150 x 118

    Summer is a time for raising young ones.  The refuge hosts a number of colonial nesting birds such as the American white pelican, double-crested cormorant, and great blue heron.  All three of these species nest on the ground in Lake Bowdoin on an island called Woody Island.

    In the cattail and bullrush areas of refuge wetlands, there are colonies of over water nesters such as white-faced ibis and Franklin's gulls. Eared grebes build a floating nest of aquatic vegetation on which to lay their eggs.  Like other grebes, the young can be seen "hitching" a ride on the back of one of their parents.

    Along the shoreline of wetlands there are nesting black-necked stilts, American avocet, and on rare occasion piping plovers.

    Broods of ducklings and Canada geese goslings of all ages can be seen feeding and loafing in refuge wetlands. The ducklings can be difficult to identify unless they are with their mother. 


  • Fall

    Fall Migration 150 x 118

    By late September many of the shorebirds have migrated through this area and on their way to their wintering grounds in Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America.  The songbirds have raised their young and the males are no longer singing to defend their territories.  Many have started their migration southward.  Waterfowl are in the process of molting or completing their molt and can be difficult to identify because of their drab colors.

    In early October family groups of tundra swans begin to trickle in.  Their numbers gradually build over the weeks, staging on Bowdoin NWR and surrounding wetlands to fatten up on sago pondweed and other foods before they depart to states along the eastern seaboard.

  • Winter

    Snowy Owl 150 x 118

    Winter bird residents are the bohemian waxwing, dark-eyed junco, tree sparrow, common red poll, house finch, and black-capped chickadee.  Rough-legged hawks, northern goshawks, and golden eagles are common and a few bald eagles will also winter in the area.  The most noteworthy visitor to this area is the snowy owl.