Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Place Category: Ecology, Nature & Outdoor Recreation, Birding, Conservation, and Nature Sites

  • Profile

    Owned and operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, this 4,480-acre site contains elements of several habitats: Oak-hickory forest, riparian forest, floodplain shrub, marsh, and open lake. Note the prairie plant display garden at the refuge headquarters. Although known primarily for its waterfowl, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge also attracts numerous other bird groups into its forests, marshes, and lakes. There is a good reason the Audubon Society and American Ornithological Society have designated this as a regionally Important Birding Area (IBA). This 4,480-acre U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service site has great diversity: oak-hickory and riparian forests, floodplain shrub, marsh, and open lake. Bald Eagles hunt the wetlands with a nesting pair returning most every year. Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, American Bittern, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron are common wading species. Woodland songbirds haunt the forests. For dedicated birders, the shorebird migration is a must see event. The South Pool is managed to attract migrating plovers, sandpipers, godwits, and other shorebirds during their biannual migration. In late winter it is not uncommon to see hundreds of thousands of snow geese blanketing the lake. Also look for Wood ducks, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Loon, Grebes, Swans, White Pelicans, and Double-crested Cormorants. Parts of the refuge are closed during the fall-winter waterfowl season. For information on access, stop at the refuge headquarters. A spotting-scope or high powered binoculars are recommended for this expansive refuge. Three observation decks (one with a mounted scope) are accessible from the Chautauqua Nature Trail, which winds through a black oak sand forest, a great place to look for migrating song birds in the spring. The cross levee at Eagle Bluff Access area provides the most expansive view of the entire refuge.

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