Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Oak Barrens is a savanna habitat with diverse herbaceous, shrub, and overstory layers. It provides homes for many rare species including the massasauga rattlesnake, loggerhead shrike, phlox moth, Blandings turtle, and the endangered Karner blue butterfly. It is also used as nesting habitat by over 100 species of migratory birds.
Many plant species are found in barrens habitat, but blueberries, sweetfern, and goldenrod are the most common plants. It is characterized by its interspersed open areas, shrubby appearance, and a few tall trees.
The barrens are restored by timber harvesting, followed by prescribed burning to set back succession. Historically, there were 4 million acres of oak barrens habitat in Wisconsin; only about 5 thousand acres remain today.
Wetlands are utilized by waterfowl and many other animals such as Sandhill cranes, herons, eagles, osprey, and shorebirds. Smartweed, arrowhead, bidens, rice cutgrass, and duckweed provide high energy food for waterfowl.
Water levels are manipulated to accommodate waterfowl needs. This provides optimal feeding, nesting, and resting areas for the birds. Wetlands have been restored throughout the refuge since 1940. This effort has created over 11,000 wetland acres on the refuge.
Notice the different color of the water in the ditches along the way. The yellow water is caused by the high mineral/iron content. Necedah is an Indian name meaning land of yellow water.
Sedge Meadows have soils which are wet. They are home to marsh hawks, sedge wrens, and sora rails, as well as dozens of other bird and animal species. These meadows are easily recognizable by the dominance of willow and various sedges, with little or no open water.
Grasslands are managed by mowing or burning to maintain nesting and grazing sites for ducks, geese, Sandhill cranes and white-tailed deer.
Oak/Pine Forests provide excellent habitat for neo-tropical migratory birds such as the scarlet tanager, eastern wood-pewee, and ovenbird. Dominant tree species are the Hill's oak, aspen, and jack pine, with a scattering of other pines, oaks, and willow. These forests are the result of uncontrolled succession. Originally the land in the area was very open; kept open by frequent, naturally-occurring fires. With the coming of the era of "fire prevention", succession occurred in most of the forest in the area. This created closed canopy forests where barrens once occurred.
Plantation Forests are the second forest habitat type and are ideal nesting areas for Cooper's hawks, but provide habitat that is of little use to other wildlife species. Dominant tree species are red and white pine. These forests were originally planted in the late 1920's and 1930's to reclaim the land. Management includes selective cutting to increase diversity.
Bluebirds can be seen on our grasslands. Earliest arrivals are from early March, while peak arrival is in mid to late April. They mate and raise 2 - 3 broods on the refuge until late August. Migrants can be seen on the refuge later.
Swans can be seen on the refuge during spring and fall. There are 3 species that spend time on the refuge; the trumpeter, tundra and mute swan. The most abundant are the tundra swans. They don't nest here, but can be seen during the migration. Mute swans are an exotic species. Trumpeters were extirpated from Wisconsin in the early 1900's. In 1994, 25 cygnets were reared on the refuge in hopes of establishing a breeding population. Eggs were removed from nests in Alaska and transported to the Milwaukee Zoo where they were hatched in incubators. Cygnets were then released in the wild and "reared" by Department of Natural Resources interns who led them around selected wetlands using a swan decoy.
Karner blue butterflies can be seen on our oak barrens which have an abundance of wild lupine. Each year, 2 generations of this butterfly hatch, and adult butterflies emerge in late May-early June and in late July-early August. Wild lupine is critical to the butterfly because the Karner larvae feed exclusively on lupine. The adults rely on lupine and a variety of other wildflowers for their food, feeding on the nectar. The Karner blue butterfly is an endangered species. Killing or molesting the butterfly or destroying its habitat is a federal offense; fines of up to $10,000 and/or 1 year in jail can be levied.
Sandhill cranes are common on the refuge and can be seen near wetlands or in open fields. They arrive in mid to late March and leave in October-November for warmer climates.
Eagles are common on the refuge. Bald eagles are the most common and can be seen year-round near the open water. Golden eagles are present year-round, but are more likely to be seen in fall and winter.
Hawks and owls are common sights during spring, summer and fall. Red-tailed hawks, harriers and kestrels are the most abundant. Great-horned owls are present throughout the year, and can be seen or heard most often at dawn or dusk.
Ducks are very common on the refuge. Nesting species include the mallard, wood duck, blue winged teal, and black duck. Large numbers of ducks congregate on the refuge during the fall. They can be seen on the Sprague-Mather and Goose Pools and from the observation tower and nearby nature trail.
White-tailed deer can be seen in fields, on the roadsides, and in refuge barrens year-round.
Songbirds can be found throughout the refuge. Ground nesting birds such as bobolink and meadowlark, and shrub nesters like the gray catbird and brown thrasher are common in refuge barrens during mid-June. Canopy nesting species such as the northern oriole, scarlet tanager, and wood peewee can also be seen on the refuge.
Refuge Manager Necedah National Wildlife Refuge W 7996 20th Street West Necedah, Wisconsin 54646-7531 Telephone: 608/565-2551
U.S. Department of Interior Office for Equal Opportunity 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20240