With its mix of pasture-grasslands and riparian wetlands, the western side of the Carson Valley, including the Carson River corridor, is recognized as an IBA. The Carson Valley has one of the few colonies of Tri-colored Blackbirds outside of California and the only colony in Nevada. Sandhill Cranes are known to breed in the valley which is a rare occurrence outside of Elko County. The valley supports numerous NV Partners in Flight priority conservation species, and an abundance of over-wintering raptors, including Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcons and Merlins (a few), Swainson's Hawk and Osprey (summer), Barn Owls, Great-horned Owls, Long-eared Owls, Short-eared Owls, Northern Pygmy Owls, and Flammulated Owls. The raptors provide essential pest control and occupy every niche-from wetland associated species to birds characteristic of the drier uplands. The Carson River corridor was probably an important neotropical songbird migration route prior to the reduction in willow-cottonwood forests. Restoring this resource is a long-term goal of the IBA Program. The valley's wetlands are home to a diversity of waterbirds, from rails to ducks to herons and egrets and Red-winged Blackbirds, and many species of shorebirds stop-over in the valley during migration.
Few well-watered valleys drain the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and with ever-increasing development these few valleys are growing ever-smaller in the extent of habitat they offer wildlife. The Carson River runs through the Carson Valley, and it is heavily tapped for irrigation and distributed through agricultural fields. The irrigated pasture and hay meadows supported in part by distributed irrigation offer habitat for a variety of birds. Raptors are abundant in the valley, particularly in winter, and there is a growing population of Bald Eagles that is taking advantage of the calf birthing season that is timed to peek in February. The eagles concentrate to feed on protein-rich afterbirth, and a growing number of people are arriving to watch the spectacle, often through the organized Eagles and Agriculture event. Other birds of the open grasslands include Short-eared Owls, White-faced Ibis, and Sandhill Cranes. The latter is present in very modest numbers but could grow if adequate habitat is maintained. Finally, a colony of Tricolored Blackbirds breeds in the valley?one of the few breeding populations outside of California. This species has been identified as an Audubon Watchlist Species (yellow) and a species of concern by the Fish and Wildlife Service. However, in order for the Carson Valley to meet the B1 Continental IBA threshold, Tricolored Blackbirds would have to occur in greater numbers here than have been recorded.