Seasons of Wildlife

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Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is home to a rich variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Muskrats and tiger salamanders find food and cover in the wetlands, raccoons and yellow warblers search for meals along the wooded lakeshores, and Swainson's hawks and monarch butterflies navigate above the grasslands looking for food. Wildlife can be found year-round on the Refuge. The number and species of wildlife change throughout the seasons on the Refuge.

  • Spring


    As winter releases its icy grip on the prairies, small temporary wetlands warm up and become ice free first, providing important food resources for thousands of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds. The waterfowl migration begins with enormous flocks of snow geese followed by several species of ducks including common goldeneyes, mergansers, and lesser scaup. Canada geese, mallards, gadwalls, and blue-winged teal begin arriving in early April through mid-May. Shorebirds such as godwits, sandpipers, and plovers show up in May along with pelicans, herons, and egrets. 

    Bald eagles and great horned owls are the earliest nesters starting in March. Canada geese begin nesting in April, and sometimes have to remain on their nest as late spring snow storms cover them while they protect their eggs. White-tailed deer give birth to their fawns in late spring and can be seen following the does as they practice using their long skinny legs.

  • Summer

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    In early summer, western grebes dance on Lake Tewaukon while resident bald eagles look for food for their young. In early June, broods of blue-winged teal, mallards, pintail, and redheads begin to use Refuge wetlands, swimming along the shores feeding on aquatic insects that help them grow quickly. Goslings flock together in June and July with adult Canada geese on larger wetlands until they are fully feathered and can fly.

    During June, July, and August, the prairies are alive with bobolinks, meadowlarks, and grassland sparrows as they start nesting and raising their young hidden in the dense grass. Coyotes and badgers search the grasslands for rodents to feed their young while muskrats harvest cattails and rushes to feed their pups and build huts to protect them during the long winter.


  • Fall

    Painted Turtle 512x219

    Summer begins to fade into fall during the month of September. The fall migrants begin to move ahead of the winter that is to come. September sees family groups of red-tailed, Swainson, and rough-legged hawks feeding on small rodents as they wing their way south. Thousands of migrating ducks and geese congregate in large flocks feeding in the fields during the day and resting on large wetlands in the evening and through the night from October through November.

    In October, beautiful white tundra swans feed in flooded fields and in shallow wetlands. Leopard frogs and painted turtles head to the bottom of wetlands to spend the cold winter months covered in the soft mud as ice forms on the water. Garter snakes and smooth green snakes head to underground burrows as the cold northern winds and snow begin to fall in late October and November.

  • Winter

    Winter Prairie

    The first snow of the season announces the arrival of winter and signals any remaining migratory bird species that it is time to move on. Most of the waterfowl, rails, egrets, grebes, and herons have left for warmer climates. In milder winters, bald eagles and Canada geese can be seen on any open water into February.

    Snowy owls and snow buntings come down from the Arctic Circle and northern Canada to spend the winter on the prairies in North Dakota. Black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, horned larks, brown creepers, and white-breasted nuthatches stay all winter long feeding on seeds.