Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

  • Karner Blue Butterfly

    Karner Blue Butterfly

    Keep an eye on flowers during the months of early May and August and you just might spy a Karner blue butterfly. This beautiful endangered species is only about the size of a quarter. Its pale blue markings of the male butterfly make it stand out among the purple lupine flowers that bloom in April. Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is home to the world’s largest population of this butterfly thanks in part due to its abundance of the wild lupine plants on which the caterpillar is entirely dependent. Check them out on the Lupine Loop Trail.

  • Rhexia


    At Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, one can view plants and birds with affinities to the tropics, Atlantic Coast, Rocky Mountains, and tundra. One such plant is Meadow-beauty (Rhexia). Rarely reaching two feet tall, Rhexia is a beautiful tropical plant with yellow anthers contrasted against vibrant, pink petals. But how did a tropical plant end up in Wisconsin? It has been here since Wisconsin had more of a tropical climate. When you spot this plant, you are looking at an ancient relic of Wisconsin’s tropical past; a tropical plant that not only survives in Wisconsin’s current temperate climate but also survived during periods when glaciers covered much of the state.

  • Whooping Cranes

    Whooping Crane

    As the principal federal partner responsible for administrating the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we take the lead in recovering and conserving our Nation’s imperiled species such as the whooping crane. As we work in partnership with others, our two major goals are to protect endangered and threatened species, and then pursue their recovery, and conserve candidate species and species-at-risk so that listing under the ESA is not necessary. These spectacular birds are an enjoyable sight on the refuge.  

  • Savanna


    Historically, Wisconsin had over 4.1 million acres of savanna habitat. Currently, less than 10,000 acres remain. Necedah National Wildlife Refuge has been restoring savanna since 1959. Through plant propagation, refuge staff have brought species back that have been missing since the 1930s. With more than 3,000 acres in savanna it provides 110 species of migratory birds, three species of amphibians, 14 types of reptiles, and over 44 species of butterflies.

  • Sedge Meadow

    Sedge Meadow

    Thanks to a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the history of sedge meadows in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge was revealed during the summer of 2006. Peat soil cores more than six feet deep were collected from sedge meadows and radio carbon dating showed that plant material on the bottom of the cores is more than 11,000 years old. These cores also revealed the plant communities of the area and found that sedge meadows on the refuge are most closely related to meadows in northern Wisconsin. These open wetlands are dominated by sedges and grasses and are important habitats for the bog-haunter dragonfly, golden-winged warbler, whooping crane, and American bittern.

  • Tallgrass Prairie


    The tallgrass prairie ecosystem, once one of our Nation’s most diverse terrestrial ecosystems, has become functionally non-existent over the last 150 years. Loss and fragmentation of prairie landscapes combined with changes in natural processes have had negative consequences for many grassland plants and animals. The refuge is active in prairie restoration and it shows through the variety of prairie plants such as big and little blue stem grasses, blazing star, butterfly milkweed and goldenrods that serve as nesting and food sources for many species of insects and birds.