Situated four miles east of Carbondale in southern Illinois, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge contains 44,000 acres of land and water with a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Major habitat types include hardwood forest, agricultural land, grazing units, shrublands, wetlands and lakes. The western 24,000 acres of the refuge include a 4,050-acre wilderness area. The eastern portion, 20,000 acres, is a wildlife sanctuary.

Both dabbling and diving ducks use the wetlands and deeper water areas during migration -- at least 100,000 waterfowl migrate through the refuge, pausing to feed and rest, each year. Observers have documented 245 regularly occurring species at Crab Orchard.

This refuge was once covered with corn and other crops, but in the 1930s during the Depression, the government bought foreclosed farms and redesigned the site to become a major wildlife watching area. Workers planted millions of trees and created three lakes. The government also built a munitions plant here during World War II.. In 1947, after the war ended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

Ornithological Summary

With its varied habitat and expansive size, Crab Orchard has attracted at least 245 bird species to stop over during migration, spend the winter or breed. Songbirds including 30 warbler species, 7 vireo species and 9 flycatcher species use the varied vegetation during migratory stopovers. Also, 25 shorebird species, 20 duck species and various gulls and hawks migrate through the refuge. In one spot, a spillway along Refuge Road and IL 13, nearly every species of waterfowl recorded in Illinois have been spotted. At least 100,000 waterfowl stop and rest in this huge refuge each year.

In addition, at least 100 species of birds nest here, including the Fish Crow, Black Vulture, Pileated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Kentucky Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler and Prothonotary Warbler.

This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for Waterfowl and Wading Birds.


Springfield Park District
2500 South Eleventh Street, P.O. Box 5052
Springfield, Illinois 62705
Phone: 217-544-1751
Fax: 217-544-1811

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