Seasons of Wildlife

mallard brood

As the seasons change in the San Luis Valley, so does the wildlife. Spring and summer brings ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, bitterns, songbirds, avocets, white-faced ibis and herons to the valley. Some of these birds stay in the valley through the summer and fall, while others travel further north.

  • Spring

    mallard in flight

    Clouds of ducks, cranes, and geese, reminiscent of pre-European accounts, migrate through the Refuge. Thousands of northern pintails, sandhill cranes, and Canada geese can be seen throughout the valley resting and refueling for their trek to northern breeding grounds.
    Typically, the river is one of the first major areas of water to open up within the valley, attracting large numbers of waterfowl. Large concentrations of bald eagles roost along the river during this time to feed on the arriving waterfowl as well as on the numerous winter killed fish found along the banks. As migration progresses, a variety of songbird species use the riparian corridor.

  • Summer

    American Avocet

    Throughout the summer, the riparian corridor along the Rio Grande at Alamosa Refuge offers habitat for many species of songbirds, including the rare southwestern willow flycatcher. Nesting shorebirds such as American avocets, Wilson’s phalaropes, and white-faced ibis wade in the mudflats for food. Water birds like the American bittern, sora, and black-crowned night-herons also arrive to feed and nest in the Refuge marshes.

  • Fall


    Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and a variety of other waterfowl migrate through the Valley, congregating in wetlands and grasslands to rest and refuel for their journey to wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast. Resident deer and elk, coyotes, porcupines, and beaver are found on the Refuge year round. Migrating deer and elk herds move from higher elevations to the valley floor. 

  • Winter


    When cold conditions descend on the valley, some waterfowl are found in the remaining open water, but raptors dominate the Refuge landscape. Short-eared owls and many others such as bald eagles, northern harriers, rough-legged hawks, and great horned owls are some of the raptors found here. Deer, elk, coyotes, porcupines and jackrabbits are found year round.