The unique ecosystems of the San Luis Valley have a plethora of birds and waterfowl. A tapestry of wetlands and agricultural fields are filled with the sounds of cranes, geese, ducks and more, including deer and elk herds. The San Luis Valley has two national wildlife refuges open to the public, the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.
Established in 1952, the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is 14,804 acres of artificially created yet intensively managed fields and wetlands to provide habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl and other water loving birds. Common varieties seen are mallards, teal and Canada geese, pintails, killdeer, egrets and herons, to name a few. A network of wells and irrigation canals provide precious water to maintain the wetland habitat. Every March nearly 20,000 Sandhill Cranes stop over for six weeks on their northern migration. The MV-NWR and local organizations host the Annual Crane Festival to welcome their arrival. It is truly a site to behold.
The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1962 and is 12,026 acres of uplands, riparian corridors, wet meadows and river oxbows. Providing food and a safe habitat, it is a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife. The wetland and river habitats provide a wildlife oasis in the dry region. The west side of the refuge borders the Rio Grande River which is essential for maintaining habitats for Mallard Ducks, Pintails, Teal, American Advocets, Killdeer, Canadian Geese, Egrets and Herons. The W-NWR also supports a variety of wildlife including Raptors like hawks and eagles, deer, beavers, coyotes and more.