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Birding at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Maximize your birding "pump" by checking out Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southern Wyoming.

Male Canvasback in alternate plumage
Male Canvasback in alternate plumage

Hotspot Name: Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Laramie, WY

Managing Organization: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Facilities: n/a

Fees: n/a

When to Bird: Spring | Summer | Fall

Number of Potential Species: 220

Notable birds at Hutton Lake NWR

Notable Birds: Cackling Goose, Tundra Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Hooded Merganser, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Virginia Rail, Sora, Sandhill Crane, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Semipalmated Plover, Marbled Godwit, Stilt Sandpiper, Sanderling, Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Bonaparte's Gull, Franklin's Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Forster's Tern, American Bittern, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Swainson's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Say's Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Horned Lark, Marsh Wren, Sage Thrasher, Mountain Bluebird, American Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, McCown's Longspur, Brewer's Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Common Yellowthroat

How to bird Hutton Lake NWR

Description: Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is likely the top shorebird/waterfowl birding spot in the state of Wyoming. Its only real competition would come from Table Mountain/Springer-Bump and Keyhole State Park. Unfortunately, the latter two are not birded frequently, so Hutton gets top billing! Here is how USFWS describes the refuge:

Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, located within a high plains basin ecosystem known as the Laramie Basin,  is one of over 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge is managed as part of the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  It is situated in the southern part of the Laramie plain; a high elevation, dry grassland surrounded by mountains.  The shallow depressions of the basin, within the relatively flat topography of the region, support wetland complexes, including marsh and lakes, that are unique to the semiarid area.  The Refuge sits at an elevation of 7,150 feet and has five small lakes on it - Hutton, Creighton, George, Rush and Hoge.  The upland vegetation consists of short grasses and sagebrush.

When you visit the refuge, there are two tracks/dirt trails that can get you within scoping range of most of the major bodies of water. Hutton Lake and Lake George are particularly good for rails, while the former is often a great spot to observe the American Bittern. The American Bittern is an under-observed species for the Equality State.

Creighton Lake can be great for shorebirds, especially if the water level is low. Though, all the lakes are great for shorebirds. Let me make this description short and sweet: Go birding in every body of water. Start earlier in the morning when the waterbirds are more vocal, and the sun is at your back. There is nothing worse than sun flashes off the water through a scope. Birding spring migration through fall migration is optimal; access can be limited in winter, so be prepared to get a big "goose egg" anytime after November.

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Bring a scope when visiting national wildlife refuges!


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1 Comment

Ellis Hein
Ellis Hein
Oct 31, 2019

Nice photo of the Canvasback.

Zach is showing off gear and encouraging visitors to check out his favorite gear on his Amazon Associate page.

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