My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday: Some of the Water Birds of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established to save the Trumpeter Swan from extinction.  Our shallow lakes and marshes also support many other species that require wetlands or open water.

These are some of the water birds that breed on the refuge.

Wilson's phalarope is one of my favorite birds.  They feed by turning round and round to stir bugs up off the bottom of the water. Then they pick them off the surface. It makes for a wild dance when there are several of them feeding together.  I also love that the males are the plain ones and the females are the pretty ones.  The males sit on the eggs while the female goes off to find another boyfriend.

Male Wilson's phalarope
I've paddled from Florida to Canada and on almost every paddle, I've seen one or more spotted sandpipers. I think of them as the paddler's mascot.  I was wandering around near Picnic Springs and taking pictures when I realized a spotted sandpiper was feeding only a few yards away.  I mostly see them without spots so I love their summer attire.

We have white pelicans breeding here as well. Both sexes grow a "horn" in breeding season . This is shed afterwards.

American white pelican

Windblown American white pelican

Another bird which is about the same size as the pelican, is the trumpeter swan.  These birds almost went extinct. When there were only about 70 individuals left, they were found living year around here where they use warm springs. The refuge was established to provide habitat for these birds.  Now there are over 3000 of them and they are in many states.  I think the brownish color on the head and neck are stains.   These are a breeding pair but were not quite close enough together to get them in the same picture.

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan with northern shoveler

We have eighteen species of ducks that breed here.  But the ducks we have the most of are lesser scaup.   The refuge has been banding all the babies they can catch for several years so we can learn where they go.  This species is in decline in many areas.  I never have very good duck pictures because they swim or fly away every time I get near them. 

Male cinnamon teal

Male pintail

A lesser  scaup pair

Western grebe (l) and red-necked grebe (r)

A few birds, while often found on the land, are wading birds or are related to birds that use water. One of them is the long-billed curlew.  I love hearing their calls as they fly over the wetlands and dry meadows.

Long-billed curlew

I think sandhills are the stateliest of birds, second only to the whooping cranes. And I love the dances they do to pair bond and as families. I ALMOST got a movie of them dancing the other day but I apparently didn't push my movie button hard enough.

Our sandhill cranes are much redder than most  others

A closer look at a sandhill crane

Check out other wildbird posts from around the world.

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