Wildlife & Habitat

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

  • Sandhill Cranes

    Sandhill Crane

    Refuge wetlands provide habitat for up to 40 pairs of breeding sandhill cranes each year. The unison call of these tall, stately birds is thrilling to hear in spring, and by mid-summer, an observant visitor may be treated to the sight of one or two rusty-colored ‘colts,’ following their parents and learning to forage on insects and other invertebrates. In late September, migrating flocks begin to arrive from the north. By the middle of October, the refuge hosts thousands of cranes as they roost at night in refuge wetlands, and then fly out to area croplands to forage during the day.

  • Blanding’s Turtle

    Blanding's Turtle

    The Blanding’s turtle, a Minnesota State threatened species, needs both wetland and upland habitats to complete its life cycle. As they emerge from wetlands in spring, a period of basking in the sun helps to increase body temperature needed for egg production. In early summer, the female may travel up to one mile into surrounding sandy uplands to lay her 6 to 15 eggs. After a two-month development period, young Blanding’s turtles hatch and emerge from nests in late summer or early fall.

  • Red-headed Woodpecker

    Red-headed Woodpecker

    The red-headed woodpecker is a bird of the oak savanna, excavating nests in dead trees and dead limbs high off the ground. Although often occurring in loose colonies or clusters, the birds remain territorial and do not cooperate with other pairs in the area. When feeding, they will fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground. They also eat seeds, fruits and berries, and gather acorns to store. Once abundant, their populations have declined drastically, mostly due to habitat loss caused by removal of dead trees with large limbs. They also lose nesting habitat to European starlings, and sometimes die from collisions with cars when swooping low over roads while foraging.

  • Oak Savanna

    Oak Savanna

    Historically, rare oak savanna was the predominant habitat on upland areas that are now part of the refuge. It is characterized by scattered individuals and clumps of oaks growing with an understory dominated by tall prairie grasses and wildflowers. It is a fire-dependent plant community that today is restored and maintained with prescribed burning.

  • Wet Meadows

    Wet Meadow

    The refuge lies within the St. Francis River watershed and contains a variety of wetlands ranging from shallow, wet meadows to permanently flooded mixed emergent marshes. After the refuge was established, impoundments were created and water management includes periodic drawdowns, followed by subsequent flooding. This management technique supports a variety of aquatic vegetation, and also exposes mudflats that attract good concentrations of waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds.

  • Lakes and Marshes

    Lakes and Marshes

    In the early 1900s, when lakes and marshes were still in prime condition throughout Minnesota, the St. Francis River basin was regarded as one of the finest wildlife areas in the state. The majority of the refuge lies within the St. Francis River watershed, and the river itself winds though refuge lands, providing a corridor of excellent riparian habitat for waterbirds, songbirds, and mammals such as river otter and beaver.