Seasons of Wildlife

A white crab spider sitting on a purple coneflower. L. Hubers/USFWS

Even when it seems like there is nothing going on, whether in the heat of summer or the frigid winter, wildlife or signs of it, are everywhere.  

  • January

    A snow bunting sitting on a snow bank. L. Hubers/USFWS

    Cold and snow make life difficult for most animals in the Northern Great Plains but some birds actually consider this the southern part of their range. Look for Lapland longspurs, snow buntings and horned larks along roadsides and fields. Every few years snowy owls can also be seen during winter months.

  • February

    A pair of Canada geese standing on an ice covered pond. L. Hubers/USFWS

    Although it seems crazy, great horned owls are beginning to nest even though spring can still be months away. A few hardy Canada geese may venture out at the end of the month.


  • March

    Western meadowlark standing on a post. L. Hubers/USFWS

    Just when you think winter will last forever, spring migrants begin to return. Look for waterfowl, especially white-fronted, snow, and Canada geese, goldeneyes and widgeon from mid- to late March and into April. Listen for sandhill cranes which can often be heard but not seen as they migrate north. Bald eagles can often be observed following waterfowl migrations. Our first passerines such as robins and meadowlarks also appear near the end of March.

  • April

    Three white pelicans flying. L. Hubers/USFWS

    When the ice and snow finally melt, the prairies come alive. Ducks and geese can be seen on nearly every wetland. American white pelicans also appear along with marsh birds like herons, egrets, grebes and coots. Yellow-rumped warblers as well as ruby- and golden-crowned kinglets herald the beginning of the warbler migration with their appearance at the end of April. Some of the larger shorebirds like avocets and willets appear at the end of the month.

  • May

    Close up of a leopard frog in a pond. L. Hubers/USFWS

    Warblers are the star in May. Early in the month, birdwatching is easier before the trees leaf out allowing great opportunities to catch a glimpse of some of the many warblers that pass through. Some ducks such as mallards and pintails will already be nesting as will Canada geese. Shorebirds can now be seen alongside wetlands and in flooded fields.  Listen for the snores and grunts of leopard frogs courting females.

  • June

    Spotted fawn lying in the grass. Photo by USFWS

    Most of the birds just passing through (migrating) will be gone by now. Birds seen in June will probably be nesting here. Look for the first duck and goose broods. The first fawns will also make their appearance in June...though they are rarely seen.


  • July

    Dickcissel in a tree.  Photo by USFWS

    Later nesting ducks like gadwall and blue-winged teal will be appearing with broods. Canada geese will be grouping up on large lakes in preparation for their flightless period during their molt, when they replace old feathers with new. By the end of the month some shorebirds will already be heading south from their northern breeding sites. Look for dickcissels and bobolinks in the grasslands.

  • August

    A Wilson's phalarope in a pond. Photo by USFWS

    As some wetlands dry up, mudflats are exposed, just in time for migrating shorebirds. Warblers may start showing up at the end of the month. Waterfowl are grouping up and feeding furiously to build up energy stores for fall flights.

  • September

    Blue-winged teal male preening his feathers.  Photo by USFWS

    Warblers and other passerines will be heading for warmer climates this month. Blue-winged teal are the last of the ducks to arrive in spring and the first to go in the fall. American coots may be everywhere one day and gone the next.


  • October

    Bald eagle sitting in a leafless tree. L. Hubers/USFWS

    October is another big month for migration. Ducks and geese as well as tundra swans will be coming through before wetlands freeze up. Red-tailed hawks and eagles will also be heading south. At the end of the month look for common goldeneyes and buffleheads.  White-tailed deer can be seen more often as they lose habitat to harvesting activities and bucks become more interested in does.


  • November

    Red fox sitting in the snow. L. Hubers/USFWS

    If water is still open, look for mergansers, the latest waterfowl migrants. If the weather is mild, other waterfowl and even egrets or herons may still be seen. Eagles can often be seen even after ice up.  Coyotes and red fox may be seen or heard more often while looking for mice and rabbits for a winter feast.


  • December

    Snow covered white-tailed deer looking for food. L. Hubers/USFWS

    By now only our hardy winter residents are left. Look for downy and hairy woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees and nuthatches. Sharp-tailed grouse and ring-necked pheasants can also be found year-round. White-tailed deer can be seen scrounging for food wherever they can find it. To find out more about which birds stick around for the winter join us for the Christmas Bird Count.


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