Seasons of Wildlife
October and November are the best months to see large concentrations of waterfowl. Shorebird and warbler migrations usually peak around the first week of May. Resident wildlife such as deer, raccoon, squirrel and opossum can be seen year round. Lucky visitors may even spot a river otter playing in the wetlands in the spring and summer months or sliding on fresh snow in the winter.
The Mississippi River valley serves as one of the most important bird migration corridors in North America. Riverine wetland habitats offer migrating birds essential food and cover along their journey. Nearly 300 bird species visit the refuge during migration.
Here a few of the species you may spot at the refuge: migratory waterfowl of every size and color! Many different species of waterfowl use areas of the refuge for feeding and resting from October through the winter months and into early spring. It is not uncommon to see large groups of mallard, northern shoveler, pintail, teal, gadwall, wood duck and others.
The red-shouldered hawk inhabits mature forests along water, which makes Great River National Wildlife Refuge a perfect place for these hawks to raise their young. They feed on small mammals, frogs, snakes, crayfish and the occasional small bird. Their reddish underside and the black and white barring of their tail help to identify them from other hawks.
No matter the season, great blue herons can be seen stoically waiting for their next meal to come within striking distance. In the winter months when ice and snow cover the refuge, one may think “what can these birds be eating?” Herons devour almost anything including fish, frogs, snakes, small mammals, insects and other birds, allowing them to survive harsh winter days.
Bald eagles are frequent visitors to the refuge. These majestic birds nest and travel along the corridor, often congregating in close proximity to the lock and dams. The best time to view eagles is from October until early spring.