Seasons of Wildlife
In the spring you can hear the booming sounds of prairie chickens and the cries of both sandhill cranes and marbled godwits.
Throughout the year, look for northern harriers gliding a short distance above the grass hunting for their next meal. You might also catch a glimpse of some of the resident mammals that use the area such as white-tailed deer and the occasional moose.
The southward migration of waterfowl and songbirds occurs in September and October, with thousands of waterfowl gathering on refuge wetlands and lakes.
Historically, prairie chickens were abundant in midwestern tallgrass prairies, but they are picky about their habitat and don’t adjust well to agriculture, roads or power lines. By the 1930s, prairie chickens were nearly extinct. Refuge staff and partners have been restoring prairie habitat and the prairie chickens have returned!
The greater prairie chicken is a large land bird that puts on quite a show at dawn in early spring. Male prairie chickens, in an attempt to woo the females, will gather together in a group called a “lek”, dance across the grass and make “booming” noises with their bright orange air sacs. If you enjoy early mornings, you can reserve a prairie chicken viewing blind through the Crookston Chamber of Commerce and see the show for yourself. Please see the "Guide to Prairie Grouse Viewing" for more information about this experience.
The Upland Sandpiper is a shorebird that thrives in grassland habitat. These sandpipers have steadily declined since the mid-19th century. These sandpipers inhabit the native prairie and other open grassy areas in the Great Plains of North America. Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, the largest prairie and wetland restoration in North America, provides a vast area of suitable habitat for this shorebird.
Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
The western prairie fringed orchid is a tall perennial flower that was once found in prairies from Manitoba to Missouri. It is now federally endangered as those prairie habitats have disappeared. On the refuge, the orchid may be found in wetlands called “fens.” As more fens are restored, it is expected that the western prairie fringed orchid will expand its range within the refuge.