Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

Delta National Wildlife Refuge was set aside in the early 1930's under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act in order to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and to provide a refuge for migratory waterfowl.

  • Waterfowl

    a drake and female Norhtern Shoveler feeding in the water

    The majority of waterfowl that breed and summer in the Dakotas and Canada follow the Mississippi River south in the fall, stopping along the way to feed and rest. Tens of thousands of these fall migrants end their journey when they find food and shelter in the warm and productive ecosystem of the delta's marshes. Winter residents include mallards, northern shovelers, northern pintail, wigeon, gadwall, redheads, ringnecks, scaup, megangers, American widgeon, bufflehead, mottled ducks, blue and green-winged teal, coots, canvasbacks, and Canada snow, white-fronted, and Ross’ geese.

  • Shorebirds


    Thousands of shorebirds use the Refuge as a wintering, resting and staging area during migration. Commonly observed species include greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, dunlins, least and western sandpipers, avocets, black-necked stilts, American oystercatchers, ruddy turnstones, Wilson's plovers, killdeer and willets. Shorebirds are the marathon flyers of the bird world. Many fly over over 12,000 miles each year to maintain a constant summer rich with food, as they travel between northern arctic areas and more temperate southern habitats.

  • Wading Birds


    Large numbers of wading birds nest on the Refuge. The wading birds group includes cranes, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, and ibises. These birds typically forage by wading along mudflats and in shallow water.

  • Fish and Marine Life


    The marshes and waterways of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) support a diversity of fish species. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, blue crabs, and shrimp are key saltwater species found on the refuge. Catfish, largemouth bass, and various sunfish species are found in the freshwater areas of the Refuge. Delta NWR is an extremely important nursery area for both fresh and saltwater fish species.