Thursday, June 16, 2016

Look Up. That Bird Was Probably at a Wildlife Refuge

Owl Walk at HNWR, March, 2015

By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

Well-known birder and author Kenn Kaufman said on Facebook, “National wildlife refuges protect some of the most amazing habitats for birds and other wildlife in the USA. These public lands represent a treasure for all Americans.”

I wholeheartedly agree.
Wintering Geese at HNWR, by Bill Powell

Pick up any birding magazine or guide, and you’re sure to see so many references to wildlife refuges that you will lose count. We all know the story of the brown pelican whose protection launched the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1903 with the establishment in Florida of Pelican Island bird reservation – now known as a national wildlife refuge. More than 200 refuges have been established for migratory birds.

In our 113-year history, the National Wildlife Refuge System has made huge strides on behalf of migratory bird conservation. Not only do millions of migratory birds find homes among the National Wildlife Refuge System’s stunning array of marshes, wetlands, deserts, forests, great rivers and small prairies. But they also find a home in the urban areas served by wildlife refuges. Not enough urban residents know that.

The Urban Bird Treaty program has helped make a difference. Cities today are filled with hawks, osprey, songbirds and more.

Now let’s teach kids and families in big and small cities that when we talk about migratory bird flyways, those are not far off places. Flyways include places where millions of people live, city neighborhoods where people can see a breathtaking variety of birds. With effective communications, city residents will recognize that they can go to a nearby refuge to learn more about helping bird populations.

Feather Facts Booth at Geese By Golly, December, 2015, at HNWR, by Bill Powell
The Refuge System has been crucial in nurturing migratory bird species. State-of-the-art waterfowl management is practiced on thousands of waterfowl protection areas and hundreds of wildlife refuges. We’ve brought birds back to their historic ranges, increased populations, given visitors sights that they’ll travel hundreds of miles to see – and helped sustain the economies of communities where birding is a passion.

Pintails at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, by Dick Malnory
Fewer people know that our federal wildlife officers are among migratory birds’ best friends. They regulate migratory bird take and possession limits under international treaties like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They regulate hunting license capability to ensure that proper limits are met on particular migratory bird species. And they ensure that migratory birds have safe places to rest during non-hunting seasons as they work closely with sportsmen’s groups, tribal law enforcement, and state agencies.

Americans are learning that when they see birds in their communities, vast flocks on the wing, even some hummingbirds at their feeders, they have national wildlife refuges to thank. So, when you look up and experience the magnificence of a bird in flight, you might wonder which national wildlife refuge provided benefit to that bird.

Painted Bunting at HNWR by Brad Imhoff

From USFWS Refuge Friends Newswire

For more information about birds at Hagerman NWR, see and

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