Delta National Wildlife Refuge is at the terminus of the Mississippi flyway for North American waterfowl. It is one of the last areas of land available to neotropical migratory birds crossing the Gulf of Mexico on the way to Central and South America. The refuge’s marshes, shallow ponds and mud flats are key to supporting many migratory species, as well as wintering waterfowl and shorebirds.
The majority of waterfowl that breed and summer in the Dakotas and Canada follow the Mississippi River south in the fall, stopping along the way to feed and rest. Tens of thousands of these fall migrants end their journey when they find food and shelter in the warm and productive ecosystem of the delta's marshes. Winter residents include mallards, northern shovelers, northern pintail, wigeon, gadwall, redheads, ringnecks, scaup, mergansers, American widgeon, bufflehead, mottled ducks, blue and green-winged teal, coots, canvasbacks, and Canada, snow, white-fronted, and Ross’ geese.
Thousands of shorebirds use the refuge as a wintering, resting and staging area during migration. Commonly observed species include greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, dunlins, least and western sandpipers, avocets, black-necked stilts, American oystercatchers, ruddy turnstones, Wilson's plovers, killdeer and willets. Shorebirds are the marathon flyers of the bird world. Many fly over over 12,000 miles each year to maintain a constant summer rich with food, as they travel between northern arctic areas and more temperate southern habitats.
Large numbers of wading birds nest on the refuge. The wading birds group includes cranes, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, and ibises. These birds typically forage by wading along mudflats and in shallow water.
Fish and Marine Life
The marshes and waterways of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge support a diversity of fish species. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, blue crabs, and shrimp are key saltwater species found on the refuge. Catfish, largemouth bass, and various sunfish species are found in the freshwater areas of the refuge. The Mississippi delta is an extremely important nursery area for both fresh and saltwater fish species, which are the lifeblood of the region's sport and commercial fishing industry.