Migratory waterfowl use the refuge and are economically important in the area. Mottled ducks, wood ducks, and fulvous whistling-ducks are known to nest and raise young on the refuge. The refuge provides excellent wintering habitat for many other waterfowl species including white-fronted geese and lesser snow geese. At least 20 duck species, including gadwall, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, American widgeon, mallards, and ring-necked ducks winter on Sabine NWR. Past aerial waterfowl surveys have recorded 100,000 ducks on the refuge. Gadwall, green-winged teal, and lesser snow geese frequent the refuge in higher numbers than other waterfowl species.

Wading Birds

Many wading bird species are present on the refuge year-round. Winter surveys have revealed that great egrets, white and white-faced ibis, and roseate spoonbills are the most abundant wading birds on the refuge and feed throughout the marshes during the winter months. Species such as white pelicans, tricolored herons, black-crowned night herons, green herons, great blue herons, and snowy egrets are also present in great numbers. Hundreds of cormorants utilize the refuge as well.

Shorebirds, Gulls and Terns

Over 30 shorebird species utilize habitat on the refuge during their spring and fall migrations. As part of the International Shorebird Survey, a three-year study was conducted at several sites near Calcasieu Lake, along the eastern portion of the refuge. That survey indicated that dowitcher species were the most abundant, with black-necked stilts second, and small shorebirds including sandpipers and plovers, third in abundance. Other species sighted include American avocets, yellowlegs, willets, dunlin and killdeer.


Many species of hawks, owls, and vultures utilize the refuge as a wintering ground. Red-tailed hawks, which are observed throughout the refuge in trees lining the canal banks, are the most abundant of the wintering hawks. Year-round residents include barn owls, great horned owls, and black and turkey vultures.

Other Migratory Birds

Seventy five species of migratory songbirds use the refuge levees during their spring migration. Several species of passerines are known to breed/nest on refuge levees during the summer months, including the orchard oriole, yellow-billed cuckoo, eastern kingbird, mourning dove, white-eyed vireo, northern cardinal, and common yellowthroat. Species such as the red-winged blackbird, boat-tailed grackle, eastern meadowlark, marsh wren, and seaside sparrow are known to nest in and among the marsh vegetation. Belted kingfishers and eastern kingbirds can be seen perched on trees and power lines above the canals along State Highway 27.