Wildlife & Habitat

Hundreds of sandhill cranes / USFWS

Grulla National Wildlife Refuge protects a unique and strategically located habitat that is especially important to lesser sandhill cranes on their wintering grounds, as well as many other migratory birds and resident wildlife.

Most of the 3,230-acre refuge is made up of a saline lake, known as Salt Lake. Wildlife use at Grulla National Wildlife Refuge depends heavily on the amount of water in Salt Lake, which depends on local rainfall. Although the 2,330-acre flat lake bed is often dry, ducks use the area as a resting site during migration when water is present. The lake bed is also used as a roosting ground for large numbers of wintering lesser sandhill cranes, especially during periods of severe weather when freshwater or less brackish areas are frozen over. In the spring, lesser prairie chickens can be heard booming across the prairie all the way across the state line into Texas. 

At present, the type habitat found on Grulla Refuge is limited to a few smaller tracts that are in private ownership and scattered from Portales, New Mexico, to Lubbock, Texas. By protecting this roosting habitat, the sandhill cranes are concentrated in close proximity to large feeding areas, which helps them conserve energy and protects them from predators.

The large concentrations of sandhill cranes on the refuge can be impressive with a record peak of 100,000 cranes documented in 2005.

Check out the Refuge's Birds Fact Sheet