Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect, restore, and manage nesting habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Primary emphasis is on canvasback and redhead ducks as well as white-faced ibis. Numerous other species, from Canada geese and songbirds to deer and muskrats, benefit from this management.
Look for a Species in its Favorite Habitat
Several habitat types occur on the refuge and different bird species can be found in each. These habitats include shallow and deep water marshes, mud flats, grassy meadows, sagebrush foothills, willow thickets and dense stands of bulrush and cattail. Each bird species is uniquely adapted to live in different habitats. For example, American avocets have long legs and slender bills for wading and probing in shallow water and mud while western grebes have heavy, pointed bills, and legs placed far back on a streamlined body so they can dive under water to catch fish.
Springtime Offers the Best Viewing Opportunities
Early waterfowl migrants usually start arriving in March. Because of its high elevation, the marsh does not become ice free until mid-April. April and May are ideal months to view the new arrivals in their colorful breeding plumages. A good area to observe a wide diversity of bird species is the Salt Meadow Wildlife Observation Route.
The western Canada geese which nest here are one of the larger subspecies of Canada geese. Young goslings are easily observed in May and early June. Ducklings, primarily redheads, are common by late June. Large flocks of white-faced ibis can be observed feeding in shallowly flooded meadows from spring throughout the summer and as they fly back and forth to their nesting colony located on the refuge. Mud Lake is used by molting gadwalls during August. Several thousand have been observed during this flightless period.
Fall Migration Begins Early
Fall migration is noticeable as early as August for many species, particularly shorebirds. By the middle of October, waterfowl are the most numerous birds remaining. Most waterfowl leave by the time the marsh freezes in mid to late November. Winter resident birds are few and include common goldeneyes, golden eagles, rough-legged hawks, magpies and an occasional bald eagle. Winter visitors include rosy finches along Merkley Mountain and snow buntings along the roadways.
To Protect Wildlife, Some Areas are Off-Limits to Visitors
Portions of the refuge are closed to public entry to minimize disturbance to wildlife. Human disturbance can cause nest abandonment or the death of young birds due to exposure or predation while parents are away from the nest. A separate refuge leaflet describes regulations to protect wildlife.
The following list of 161 species is the result of observations made by refuge personnel and visiting birdwatchers. This list will be updated periodically and new sightings will be included. Visitors are urged to notify the refuge manager of noteworthy sightings. Common names used are in accordance with the American Ornithologists' Union "Check-List of North American Birds", 6th edition (1983), and supplements.
a - abundant: a common species which is very numerous
c - common: certain to be seen in suitable habitat
u - uncommon: present, but not certain to be seen
o - occasional: seen only a few times during a season
r - rare: known to be present, but not every year
* - birds known to nest on the refuge
# - endangered species
LOONS Sp S F W ___ Common Loon o - - -
GREBES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe* c c u r ___ Horned Grebe o - - - ___ Eared Grebe* c c u - ___ Western Grebe* c a c - ___ Clark's Grebe u u u -
PELICANS AND CORMORANTS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican u c c - ___ Double-crested Cormorant* c a c -
BITTERNS, HERONS AND EGRETS Sp S F W ___ American Bittern* c c u - ___ Great Blue Heron* c c c r ___ Great Egret - - r - ___ Snowy Egret* c c u - ___ Cattle Egret* o o o - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* u c u -
IBISES Sp S F W ___ White-faced Ibis* c a u -
WATERFOWL Sp S F W ___ Tundra Swan r - o - ___ Trumpeter Swan - - r - ___ Snow Goose r - r - ___ Canada Goose* a a a u ___ Wood Duck r - - - ___ Green-winged Teal* c u c r ___ Mallard* c c a o ___ Northern Pintail* c c c r ___ Blue-winged Teal* o o o - ___ Cinnamon Teal* c u o - ___ Northern Shoveler* c u c r ___ Gadwall* c a a r ___ Eurasian Wigeon r - r r ___ American Wigeon u u u - ___ Canvasback* u u u - ___ Redhead* a a c r ___ Ring-necked Duck u - o - ___ Greater Scaup - - o - ___ Lesser Scaup* c r u - ___ Surf Scoter - - r r ___ White-winged Scoter - - r r ___ Common Goldeneye u - u u ___ Barrow's Goldeneye r - o r ___ Bufflehead c r u r ___ Hooded Merganser - - o r ___ Common Merganser u - u o ___ Red-breasted Merganser u - o r ___ Ruddy Duck* c c u r
VULTURES Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture o - o -
OSPREY, EAGLES AND HAWKS Sp S F W ___ Osprey o - r - ___ Bald Eagle# o - r o ___ Northern Harrier* c c c u ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk r - r - ___ Cooper's Hawk r - r - ___ Swainson's Hawk o o o - ___ Red-tailed Hawk o r r - ___ Ferruginous Hawk r - r - ___ Rough-legged Hawk o - o u ___ Golden Eagle u o u u
FALCONS Sp S F W ___ American Kestrel u u u - ___ Peregrine Falcon# o - o - ___ Prairie Falcon o - o r
GALLINACEOUS BIRDS Sp S F W ___ Gray Partridge* o - - u ___ Chukar r - r r ___ Ring-necked Pheasant r r r r ___ Sage Grouse r - - -
RAILS Sp S F W ___ Virginia Rail* o o o - ___ Sora* o u o - ___ American Coot* c a c o
CRANES Sp S F W ___ Sandhill Crane* c c c - ___ Whooping Crane# r r r -
PLOVERS Sp S F W ___ Black-bellied Plover r - - - ___ Killdeer* c c u -
STILTS AND AVOCETS Sp S F W ___ Black-necked Stilt* u u o - ___ American Avocet* u u o -
SHOREBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Greater Yellowlegs u - o - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs o - o - ___ Willet* c c o - ___ Spotted Sandpiper* u u r - ___ Long-billed Curlew o - o - ___ Marbled Godwit o - - - ___ Sanderling - - r - ___ Western Sandpiper o o o - ___ Least Sandpiper o o r - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper - - o - ___ Dunlin - - r - ___ Stilt Sandpiper - r - - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher u o u -
SNIPE Sp S F W ___ Common Snipe* c c c r
PHALAROPES Sp S F W ___ Wilson's Phalarope* c c u - ___ Red-necked Phalarope o - - -
GULLS AND TERNS Sp S F W ___ Franklin's Gull* c a u - ___ Ring-billed Gull o - o - ___ California Gull* c c c r ___ Herring Gull r - - - ___ Caspian Tern* u u o - ___ Forster's Tern* c c o - ___ Black Tern* c c o -
DOVES Sp S F W ___ Mourning Dove* u u u -
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl r r r - ___ Western Screech-Owl r r r - ___ Great Horned Owl* u u u u ___ Long-eared Owl r - - - ___ Short-eared Owl* u u u -
GOATSUCKERS Sp S F W ___ Common Nighthawk - o - -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher o o o -
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Lewis' Woodpecker - o - - ___ Northern Flicker u u u o
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Western Wood-Pewee o o - - ___ Willow Flycatcher - o - - ___ Western Kingbird r - - - ___ Eastern Kingbird o o - -
LARKS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark u o o u
SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Tree Swallow c - - - ___ Violet-green Swallow o - - - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow u o - - ___ Bank Swallow* u c o - ___ Cliff Swallow* c a u - ___ Barn Swallow* c c u -
MAGPIES AND CROWS Sp S F W ___ Black-billed Magpie* c c c c ___ American Crow u o o - ___ Common Raven r - r -
CHICKADEES Sp S F W ___ Black-capped Chickadee o - o u
WRENS Sp S F W ___ Marsh Wren* c a c o
BLUEBIRDS AND THRUSHES Sp S F W ___ Mountain Bluebird o - o - ___ Townsend's Solitaire o - o - ___ American Robin* u c u o
THRASHERS Sp S F W ___ Sage Thrasher* o u o -
PIPITS Sp S F W ___ American Pipit - - o -
WAXWINGS Sp S F W ___ Bohemian Waxwing - - - o ___ Cedar Waxwing r - - r
SHRIKES Sp S F W ___ Loggerhead Shrike o - o u
STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ European Starling* u u u o
WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Yellow Warbler* u u o - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler c o u - ___ American Redstart r - r - ___ Common Yellowthroat* u u u -
TANAGERS Sp S F W ___ Western Tanager o - r -
TOWHEES AND SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ Green-tailed Towhee* o o r - ___ American Tree Sparrow - - - o ___ Chipping Sparrow* u o o - ___ Vesper Sparrow* u - u - ___ Lark Sparrow o - - - ___ Sage Bunting* o u o - ___ Lark Bunting o - - - ___ Savannah Sparrow* c c c - ___ Fox Sparrow r - - - ___ Song Sparrow o - - - ___ White-crowned Sparrow u u o - ___ Dark-eyed Junco u - o u ___ Snow Bunting - - - r ___ Bobolink r - - -
BLACKBIRDS, MEADOWLARKS AND ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Red-winged Blackbird* c a c u ___ Western Meadowlark* u c u r ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird* c a u - ___ Brewer's Blackbird* c u u - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird u u - - ___ Bullock's Oriole o o r -
FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Rosy Finch - - - o ___ House Finch o o - - ___ Pine Siskin o o - - ___ American Goldfinch o o - - ___ Evening Grosbeak - - - r
WEAVER FINCHES Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow o o o o
Crested Caracara Ruddy Turnstone
Refuge Manager Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge 370 Webster, Box 9 Montpelier, Idaho 83254 Phone: 208/847-1757This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Birds of Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated.This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Birds of Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.govbearlake.htm (Version 26MAY98).