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Turnbull's wetlands provide important breeding and migration habitat for 17 species of nesting waterfowl and 8 additional waterfowl species that either winter on the refuge or stop over during fall and winter migration. Through most of the refuge’s existence, management of waterfowl habitat has been the primary focus of refuge staff. Starting with the restoration of several wetlands drained for farming within the newly acquired tracts, the refuge worked to improve nesting cover and feeding habitat as well as creating vast sanctuaries where birds could nest, feed and raise their young undisturbed. With the completion of the Refuge Habitat Management Plan in 1999, the habitats of all other refuge bird species are being considered using a guild approach that groups species by the habitat structure they use for nesting and feeding. Habitat management guidelines and objectives have been developed to restore and maintain habitats for species using tree canopies, tree and snag cavities, shrubs, ground cover, and burrows.

  • Wildlife Viewing Tips

    Kepple Overlook

    The patient observer will be rewarded with many wildlife viewing opportunities. Early morning and evening are the best times to observe wildlife. Spring migration occurs from mid-March through mid-May and fall migration from September through November. Most waterfowl can be found on wetlands along the auto tour route. A variety of other wildlife may be observed along the trails in the riparian, ponderosa pine forest, or grassland habitats.  

    Binoculars, camera, field guides, water, and a lunch will contribute to a pleasant visit. Quietly listen for calls and songs and wait for wildlife to resume their activities. Use your car as a blind for wildlife viewing and photography. Observation blinds may be available to allow a close-up view of wildlife with minimal disturbance.

  • Redhead

    Redhead redhead

    These diving ducks are frequent breeders in Turnbull’s permanent wetlands. The male of this species sports a red head and a black-tipped blue bill. The brown camouflaged hen builds a well concealed over water nest out of cattail and bulrush and lines it with billowy mounds of white down.

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  • Trumpeter Swan

    Trumpeter Swan-Solo Portrait

    The snowy white trumpeter swan is the largest North American waterfowl. Unlike its smaller cousin the tundra swan, which uses the refuge only during migration, the trumpeter swan is a permanent resident in the refuge area. Listen for its call which gives it its name.

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  • Cinnamon Teal

    Cinnamon Teal MG

    The cinnamon teal is a distinctly western duck species whose greatest nesting densities occur in the wetlands of the Intermountain West. Among dabbling ducks that nest on the refuge, the cinnamon teal is second only to mallards in abundance. Cinnamon teal nest in uplands in grass near the edge of wetlands. They are most often seen on the shallow flooded edges of wetlands with sparse vegetation.

  • Black Tern

    Black Tern

    A flash of silver gray low over the water of refuge wetlands signals the arrival of this elegant little tern. Over 200 nesting pairs call Turnbull their home.

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  • Yellow-headed Blackbird

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    A raucous denizen of the marsh whose song sounds like a rusty gate. These birds nest over water in large cup nest woven around hardstem bulrush stems. The best territories are located at the edge of a large open water area. It is thought this facilitates the capture of damsel and dragonfly larvae as they emerge to pupate on the hardstem bulrush stems.

  • Western Bluebird

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    A member of the thrush family, this short distant migrant is among the first to arrive in the spring. It brings a splash of color to the habitat that is not fully awakened from the long winter months.

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