Seasons of Wildlife

Spring: In the spring, Fish Springs is active with life as birds fly back from the south. There is a continuous flow of different species in and out of the refuge: each day offering something new to see. Birds are in their bright and colorful breeding plumage and the observant visitor can witness eons-old courtship rituals. Geese and ducks begin to arrive in early March. Shorebird migration lasts from early April through mid-May.

Summer: While some birds head further north to breed, many birds stay through the summer to breed and raise their young. Young birds can be seen as early as May when the Canada goose goslings and some shorebird chicks make their debut. Later in June and July, visitors can view ducklings and young shorebirds such as American Avocets and black-necked stilts. Owls, eagles and other birds can be seen in the trees at the Refuge rest area as well as soaring over the wetlands.

Fall: July marks the beginning of fall migration at Fish Springs. Shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds come back through the refuge on their way south with numbers peaking in the early fall months. Tundra swans begin to arrive in mid-October and stay into January.

Winter: From December to March northern harriers, rough-legged hawks and short-eared owls frequent the marsh searching the frozen land for prey. Bald eagles use the refuge in the winter for feeding and resting during the day.

Featured Species

The Refuge’s establishing purpose is for migratory bird management within the Pacific Flyway. Early management focused on providing habitat for nesting and resting waterfowl. Over time, habitat management broadened into meeting the needs of a wider diversity of species, with emphasis on wetland-dependent migratory birds and species at risk to being listed as endangered. Fish Springs NWR is currently evaluating its priority species as part of a habitat management planning process.

During the breeding season, you can easily spot nesting colonies of black-crowned night heron, white-faced ibis, great blue heron, and snowy egret.  Winter highlights often include tundra swan, numerous ducks, raptors, and the secretive American bittern.