The largest marsh in the interior of the United States, Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important shorebird migration points in the Western Hemisphere. Considered one of the most important ecosystems in Kansas, the basin is a natural sink in the center of the state and is the state's largest system of wetlands. Of the total protected acreage the Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy covers 7,695 acres, while the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks manages the 19,857 acre Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. Approximately 12,000 acres of the wildlife area is generally covered by shallow water, while the rest is wetland habitat and some upland areas. The Nature Conservancy's holdings is slightly higher in elevation then the wildlife area so the mjority of the preserve is upland habitat and wet meadows with approximately fifiteen semipermanent basins. A large percentage of the North American shorebird population stops at Cheyenne Bottoms during spring migration, including the majority of the North American population of Long-billed Dowitchers, Wilson's Phalaropes, and Stilt, White-rumped, Semipalmated and Baird's Sanpipers. Critical as a stopover for migrating Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers, it also provides nesting habitat for Snowy Plovers, American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes and Upland Sandpipers. At least 345 of the 472 species of birds known to occur in Kansas have
been recorded at the Bottoms. There are 134 species that breed and nest on
the area, 148 species that may winter here and 63 species that are
Designated as a Wetland of Hemispheric Importance in the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and a Globally Important Bird Area by The American Bird Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important shorebird migration points in the Western hemisphere. It has been estimated that 45 percent of the North American shorebird population stops at Cheyenne Bottoms during spring migration, including nearly 90 percent of the individuals of several species. Among the most numerous are the Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, Stilt Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Baird's Sandpiper. Nearly half of all Pectoral Sandpipers and Marbled and Hudsonian Godwits also stop at Cheyenne Bottoms during migration. The area is critical stopover habitat for Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers, it also provides breeding habitat for Snowy Plovers, American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes, Upland Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts. As many as 500,000 shorebirds may use the site during years in which habitat conditions are favorable. The Harris's Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk and Bald Eagle are common in the winter and the Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern and Western Meadowlark are among the breeding species. At least 345 of the 472 species known to occur in Kansas have been recorded at Cheyenne Bottoms. There are 134 species that breed and nest on the area, 148 species that may winter here and 63 species are permanent residents. Aproximately 40 species of waterfowl and nearly 40 species of shorebirds have been observed at Cheyenne Bottoms. During both spring and fall migration large numbers of geese, ducks and shorebirds can be observed. Goose number can reach nearly 500,000, while duck numbers can easily be in the thousands. In addition, to the waterfowl and shorebirds, Cheyenne Bottoms has recorded 28 species of raptors. The species list includes Northern Harrier, Mississippi Kite, Sharp-shinned Hawk,Coopers Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Harris' Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Merlin, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Barred Owl, Burrowing owl and Eastern Screech-Owl. During the summer and during fall migration the number of Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, American White Pelicans, Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Tree Swallows and Bank Swallows can reach into the thousands. The grasslands surrounding the wetlands serve as a nesting site and wintering area and also as a important stopover area during migration for a large number of grassland birds. American Tree Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Harris's Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Lapland Longspurs, Dickcissels, Eastern Meadowlarks and Western Meadowlarks have been recorded in the hundreds. This site hosts global and Kansas species of conservation concern and has met the criteria for Kansas waterfowl, shorebird, wading bird and raptor concentrations. During the Christmas Birds Counts from 2007 to 2011 a total of 1,140 raptors have been recorded.
The protected land consists of 19,857 acres owned and managed by the Kanas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, this area is known as the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. An addition 7,695 acres of protected land is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy and is known as the Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve.