Wildlife & Habitat

Blue-winged Teal Pair, 512x219, Craig Bihrle NDGF

Lake Ilo and smaller wetlands are the main attraction for wildlife to this Refuge. Lake Ilo is 1,240 acres in size with a maximum depth of 15 feet. A 145 acre marsh, Lee Paul Slough, is attached to Lake Ilo by a canal. The slough provides a location to view marsh animals and plants.

Another two dozen smaller wetlands make up the remaining Refuge wetland habitat. Waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife species find the wetlands attractive as summer breeding habitat and as a spring and fall migration stop. Water development and management has made Lake Ilo NWR a very important resource for wildlife and people.

Click Here to see Lake Ilo's Wildlife List.

  • Waterfowl

    Drake mallard floating on the water

    Large flocks of birds utilize Lake Ilo in the spring and fall. Peak concentrations can reach 100,000 waterfowl in the fall and 20,000 in the spring. The principle waterfowl nesting species are Canada geese, mallards, pintails, blue-winged teal, shovelers, and gadwall. 

  • Nesting Marsh & Water Birds

    Eared Grebe floating on the water

    Common birds include eared, western, and pie-billed grebes, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons,black-crowned night herons, and American bitterns.



  • Songbirds

    Chipping Sparrow sitting on a branch

    Meadowlarks, sparrows, and swallows are easily seen from the roads, while others are best found 
    by hiking and quietly observing. 


  • Shorebirds

    Marbled Godwit standing in the water

    Killdeer, plovers, sandpipers, willets, yellowlegs, marbled godwits, American avocets, and phalaropes are plentiful during migration.

  • Mammals

    Coyote standing in a field

    The Refuge is home to white-tailed deer, badger, skunk, beaver, raccoon, mink & muskrat. It is a special treat to see the less common pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyote, and secretive weasel on the Refuge.