March 19, 2017

Spring bird migration at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Posted by: Jennifer

Spring bird migration at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

March 20, 2017 is officially the first day of spring for us, but the birds are already

returning to Wisconsin for their summer nesting season. The Necedah National

Wildlife Refuge is a perfect to watch the birds as they return or even migrate even

farther north.


Recent sightings of migratory birds include mallard ducks. After their long flight,

they regain their strength by being picky eaters. They will feast on earthworms,

snails, and mostly aquatic insects. All of those tasty gems are very nourishing and

prepare the ducks for their nesting season. We love to see the little fuzzy ducklings

when the parents “get their (baby) ducks in a row”!


We may not be located in Canada, but the Canada goose is a common bird that lives

in the area. The Canada goose will search for a nesting site that has an unobstructed

view of the area around it. The goose may select a high spot such as a muskrat

mound or other slightly higher clumps of grass so that as she sits on the nest she can

watch for possible predators.


A red-winged black bird was seen in late February – a few weeks early than normal

for our area of Wisconsin. The male is easy to identify with sleek black feathers and

red and gold coloration on the wings. He is also very showy – vying for lots of

attention. The female’s coloration is much more subdued with mostly brownish

coloration but crisply streaked with lighter brown stripes.

 Red Winged Black Bird                                       nest with eggs                           

The Common goldeneye duck has also returned for the season. They are medium in

size, with large heads and the distinctive golden eyes. The male are mostly black and

white with green/black translucent head and a white, circular spot near the bill. The

female has a brown head and gray back. In flight, both sexes have lots of white

under their wings. They often feed in flocks and dive simultaneously for underwater

plants – making the appearance of a synchronized swim team!


Perhaps the most impressive bird to return to Necedah is the trumpeter swan. It is

the biggest native waterfowl in the US. This bird may grow to 6 feet in length and

weigh more than 25 ponds. It’s bright white feathers and long neck make it elegant

while swimming and in flight. It’s take-off uses as much as 100 yards for a runway.

In the early 1930’s there were fewer than 70 trumpeters in existence. Thanks to

aggressive conservation efforts, more than 30,000 trumpeters are now in existence.

They are very sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon their nests and their

cygnets if bothered. So please, watch these magnificent birds from a distance.


Another example of great conservation practices is the whooping crane. The tallest

bird in North America, the whooping crane’s population had diminished to only

about 20 in the 1940’s. Today there are around 600 birds living in North America.

There are just three flocks of these endangered birds. The flock that makes it’s

summer home in Nacedah National Wildlife Refuge winters in Florida the


Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. This flock was taught to migrate through

the efforts of The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team who used an

ultralight plane to lead the young birds in their migration flight! Necedah National

Wildlife Refuge is the principal federal partner responsible for administration of the

Endangered Species Act and takes the lead in conservation and recovery of species

such as the whooping crane.


The bird watching is great anytime of the year at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge,

but in the springtime it’s especially gratifying to witness new bird life for the season


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