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Bird Watching

Bird watching is a popular activity here at Big Oaks. An assortment of species of birds utilize the refuge throughout the seasons. The birding opportunity at Big Oaks is enjoyed by novice, intermediate and advanced birders. 

Approximately 120 species of birds are documented nesting on the refuge and over 200 migrate through. The variety of habitat including large blocks of forest, wetlands, and grassland fosters a diversity of bird species. For example, Wood Ducks can commonly be seen in our wetlands, Cerulean Warblers nest at the tops of tall trees and Henslow's Sparrows inhabit the vast grasslands. 

A pair of breeding Bald Eagles currently resides at Old Timbers Lake. The lake is also home to Belted Kingfishers and a variety of waterfowl species. Canada Geese, Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards and other waterfowl occur here. 

In our grasslands, the Henslow's sparrow takes the spotlight. Populations of this species are currently in decline due to a loss of their preferred habitat --- grasslands. Big Oaks is very important in providing breeding habitat for this species. Other birds of the grasslands include Dickcissels, other sparrows and a wintering Golden Eagle.

 The forests on Big Oaks range from mature to early successional. They provide home to woodpeckers, warblers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and more.

Big Oaks NWR is a Globally Important Bird Area. Several species here are listed as a special management concern for the Fish and Wildlife service. These include Red-headed Woodpeckers, Acadian Flycatchers, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, and Orchard oriole. 

Projects involving birds have occured in the refuge. Blue bird boxes and kestrel boxes provide nesting areas for these birds in addition to information about the species. Henslow's Sparrow surveys are the most recent bird-related project. Big Oaks Conservation Society members frequently volunteer in aid of bird surveys, tours, and more. Join us for the annual Christmas Bird Count where Golden Eagles, Short-eared Owls and LeConte's Sparrows have been highlights of previous counts. 

Of course, wildlife photography is permitted in all areas of the refuge the visitor is authorized to enter.

Big Oaks has had visitors from all over the U.S. and the world in pursuit of this hobby. 

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