Wildlife & Habitat

Great Egrets in a Wetland

Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge protects river floodplain habitat which are important resting and feeding areas for many migratory birds.

  • Bald Eagle

    Bald Eagle

    Bald eagles are frequent visitors to locations on or near the Wilkinson Island (Jackson County, Illinois) and the Meissener Island Divisions (Monroe County, Illinois). These majestic birds nest as well as travel along the corridor moving towards the Upper Mississippi River’s lock and dams. The best time to view eagles is from October until early spring. Come join us the first weekend in February as we celebrate Bald Eagles at Eagle Trek, hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers -Kaskaskia River Project, Heartlands Conservancy, Southwestern Illinois College, and the refuge.

  • Prothonotary Warbler

    Prothonotary Warbler

    Look for golden flashes of the prothonotary warbler among the riverfront forests during the early spring. Look for warblers using a variety of nesting cavities on Wilkinson, Harlow, Meissner and Beaver Island Divisions. Early morning or late in the evenings, visitors should look for these colorful songbirds and a variety of other wood warblers as they glean foliage for insects and the occasional snail.

  • Red-headed Woodpecker

    Red-headed Woodpecker

    The adult males of this woodpecker species has a vibrant red head, a distinctive white rump and wing patch, and a flight pattern similar to a “flap-flap-pause” pattern. The red-headed woodpecker is regarded as a healthy forest indicator and a common visitor to the refuge. Call or visit the refuge visitor contact station to obtain a refuge bird list, and begin your quest to add new bird species to your “life list”.

  • River Side Channels

    River Side Channel

    Located along 195 river miles between the confluence of the Missouri River to the north and the confluence of the Ohio River to the south, the Middle Mississippi River has 80% of its floodplain restricted by main stem levees, agriculture levees, and drainage ditches. The refuge seeks to restore active and abandoned side-channels connected to the Mississippi River. These channels are important conduits for big river fishes seeking off channel habitat and a bounty of prey In turn, waterfowl, wading birds, and other aquatic species seek solace in these vital floodplain habitats as well. 

  • Riverfront Forests

    Riverfront Forest Habitat

    The mighty Mississippi is the driving force impacting a variety of successional vegetative patterns across its floodplain. Temporary wetlands, shrub/scrub, mud flats, sand deposits, are all distributed within a riverfront forest mosaic on the refuge. Based upon a recent hydrologic analysis, the refuge lands have a 20% chance of flooding every two years. Cottonwoods, sycamores, maples, pecans, willows, button-bush, are just a few of the forest tree species racing against the mighty Mississippi to keep a foothold on the refuge. Come see how an active river molds and shapes the vegetation response and the animals that call it home.

  • Ridge and Swales

    Ridge and Swale Habitat

    Ridge and swale habitat is where you will find temporary wetlands in combination with abandoned channels between the main stem Mississippi River and the 100 year flood levees. These ridge and swales are natural attractions to wildlife and offer great wildlife viewing opportunities.