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Bird Checklists of the United States

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Havana, Illinois

For Thousands of Years

Millions of waterfowl and other migratory birds rested and fed in the wet Illinois River bottoms during their annual migrations from northern breeding grounds to southern winter homes. Lake Chautauqua was a rich mosaic of sloughs, wetlands and woodlands.

Times Changed

In the 1920s the area was diked, drained and converted for agricultural production. In only two years the Illinois River reclaimed the land. As agricultural development and barge traffic increased, river silt was deposited in tranquil backwater areas like Lake Chautauqua. Aquatic plants, food for waterfowl and other wildlife, were smothered. Finally, with the purchase of the Chautauqua Drainage and Levee District in 1936, Lake Chautauqua became part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.


Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These refuges, distributed along 124 miles of the Illinois River, presently provide over 10,000 acres of refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife. When land acquisition is complete, the Illinois River Refuges will include 32,000 acres of bottomland forest, backwater lake, floodplain wetlands, and prairie habitat.

Diverse Habitats = More Wildlife!

The variety of habitats found within the Refuge create wonderful conditions for wildlife observation. Springs that seep along the east shoreline maintain open areas for waterfowl (even in the coldest Winters) and enhance wildlife watching.

Ducks, geese... and more ducks and geese!

Twenty-three species of waterfowl are known to use the Refuge, including trumpeter and tundra swans. The combination of Kikunessa Pool and the Wasenza Pool provide a mix of prime habitat for diving ducks and dabbling ducks. About 60-70% of the waterfowl using the Illinois River corridor for fall migration can be found on Chautauqua Refuge at one time.

Soaring Eagles

As many as 80 eagles have been sighted on the Refuge between October and March. Eagles arrive on the Refuge around early September; by mid-October they can be found feeding and resting in the large trees of the newly restored Kikunessa Pool. Look closely and you might see one of the five known eagle nests along the Illinois River.


The low water of summer and the resulting mud flats mean one thing - peeps. With over 25,000 of these migratory visitors darting in and out of cover, July is the time to see the many shorebird species found at Chautauqua Refuge.


Whether from a boat or the tree-lined banks, Chautauqua Refuge provides exciting fishing opportunities for all ages. Fish for any of the 54 species found, including bluegill, crappie, black bass, and catfish. Boat access is available at the Eagle Bluff Access Area. Best bets include the flooded timber of Melz Slough and the western edge of Wasenza Pool.

Marsh and Water Birds

The dense wetland vegetation on Chautauqua Refuge provides ideal shelter and feeding habitat for secretive marsh birds such as sora and yellow rails, great blue herons, and great egrets. Although secretive and seldom seen, listen for American bitterns and green herons as they feed among the 70+ plant species found in Kikunessa and Wasenza Pools.

Equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability. Persons who believe they have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should contact:

                 U.S. Department of Interior
                 Office for Equal Opportunity
                 1849 C Street, N.W.
                 Washington, DC 20240

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  General information on Chautauqua 
     National Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  General information on Chautauqua 
     National Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 22MAY98).

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