Seasons of Wildlife

  • Fall migration on the refuge offers impressive numbers of Canada geese, ducks and sandhill cranes.
  • Spring migration offers a variety of unique waterbirds and songbirds and the sounds of frogs chorusing. 
  • Summer is nesting time at the marsh so wildlife is often less visible.
  • Winter is a quiet time at the marsh but wildlife is still abundant including otters, muskrats, hawks, owls and coyotes.

Waterbird Survey Highlights


Fall waterbird surveys are just getting started. Between September 13 and now, dabbling ducks have been rapidly increasing in numbers. Species seen in large numbers include: blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, mallard, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, wood duck, and gadwall.

Diving ducks are few in numbers with lower water levels. Species of divers seen currently include redheads, ruddy ducks, and the occasional Hooded merganser.

Marsh birds including ring-billed gulls, coots, white pelicans, and pied-billed grebes have decreased to a few hundred of each species. 

Wading birds still sighted include great egrets and blue herons.

Canada geese and sandhill cranes are still low in numbers as we are still in the stages of early migration. A handful of shorebird sightings remain including both Greater and lesser yellow-legs and least sandpipers. A family of trumpeter swans has been visible along Hwy 49. 

Best viewing areas for visitors include Highway 49 and the refuge auto tour off Hwy 49.





Featured Species

The marsh provides critical habitat for more than 300 species of birds as well as muskrats, red foxes, turtles, frogs, bats, dragonflies, fish and much more. 


Muskrats are often seen swimming or feeding on cattails and make their homes in cattail “huts” throughout the refuge. The original “marsh managers”, they create open areas of water for waterfowl to swim and feed.

Redhead duck

Originally established for this species, the refuge supports the largest nesting population of redhead ducks east of the Mississippi River. Thousands use the marsh each year.

American white pelican

American white pelicans nest abundantly on islands in the interior of the marsh and may be seen feeding in large groups - “herding” fish into shallower water for easier dining.

Two large white birds with spindly legs and black tips on their wings coming in for a landing in a wetland

The whooping crane occurs only in North America and is North America’s tallest bird, with males approaching 1.5 m (5 ft) when standing erect. The whooping crane adult plumage is snowy white except for black primaries, black or grayish alula (specialized feathers attached to the upper leading end...

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