Wildlife & Habitat

Duck on Rice Lake

  • Ring-necked Ducks

    Ring-necked Ducks

    Did you know that Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge holds the Minnesota record for the most waterfowl observed in one location at one time? In October 1994, more than one million ducks were observed, and most of them were ring-necked ducks.

    Ring-necked ducks breed and nest along the forested wetlands of the boreal region of Canada . During their fall migration, huge flocks stop to feed and rest in the wild rice beds in Rice Lake. The best time to view large numbers of ring-necked ducks at the refuge is usually during the second and third weeks of October. Average peak numbers are 70,000 to 100,000 ducks!

  • Golden-winged Warbler

    Golden-winged Warbler

    Most of the world’s golden-winged warblers breed and nest in central Minnesota, and unfortunately, their population is in rapid decline. Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge biologists are working hard to restore and manage the young forest habitat they breed in and to help stabilize their population. Look and listen for their “bee buzz buzz” song in the forest openings and brushy edges along the Wildlife Drive.

  • American Bittern

    American Bittern

    American bitterns are one of the many waterbird species that breed, nest and migrate through Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Your best chance of seeing one of these elusive, highly camouflaged birds is along the Wildlife Drive. Look closely for them as you pass the fens (wet meadows) and sedge meadows surrounding the Rice River and Rice Lake.

  • Emergent Marsh

    Emergent Marsh

    Rice Lake is considered an emergent marsh, a shallow lake with aquatic plants extending above the surface of the water. The lake is approximately 3,600 acres, or nearly one-quarter of the Refuge. Rice Lake is a shallow, natural, wild rice-producing wetland. Average water depth is only 2 feet and the bottom is a composition of mud and silt. Vegetation in the lake is dominated by wild rice and pickerelweed. Emergent marshes are natural nurseries, places for families of ducks and waterbirds to raise their babies. 

  • Fen

    Fen and Prescribed Fire

    The fens surrounding Rice Lake and the Rice River are dominated by sedges, as well as blue-joint and other grasses. The refuge uses prescribed fire to reduce the brushy plants in the fen and to create better breeding and nesting habitat for priority species like yellow rail, American bittern and LeConte’s sparrow. 

  • Mixed Forest

    Mixed Forest

    You can explore more than 7,000 acres of forest at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The northern hardwood forest along the Wildlife Drive is dominated by quaking and big-toothed aspens, red and sugar maples, paper birch, basswood, and red oak. You can also see lowland forest stands along the Rice River and surrounding the Twin Lakes. Breeding birds on the refuge depend on different types and sizes of forest. For example, golden-winged Warblers breed in young forest and along brushy edges, while ovenbirds nest in the forest interior.