The Lahontan Valley wetlands, located in and around the community of Fallon, sixty miles east of Reno, represent Nevada’s most important desert oasis and are widely recognized as among the most significant wetland systems in the American West.

Although the Carson Lake and Stillwater wetlands are well-known to birders, there are many other interesting waterbird and landbird sites worth visiting in the valley. More than 280 species have been sighted in the valley.

The Lahontan Valley wetlands have been designated as a site in the Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network due to the more than 250,000 shorebirds that migrate through the valley. These tremendously rich and diverse wetlands attract more than a million waterfowl, as well as over 20,000 other water birds, including pelicans, egrets, cormorants, herons, ibis, gulls and terns.
These Great Basin wetlands are also called “terminal” wetlands because they lie in a closed basin at the terminus of the Carson River. These wetlands undergo tremendous boom and bust cycles tied to the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. Lying in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada, these wetlands are truly a desert oasis.

The Carson River corridor provides important songbird habitat for migrants and breeding birds. The agricultural lands near the wetlands provide accessible wildlife viewing
and are a great place to see feeding White-faced Ibis.

Whether you have a few hours or a few days, birding in the Lahontan Valley will be a rewarding experience!

Great-Blue-Heron By early May, the large number of colony nesters, including ibis, egrets and herons, have reoccupied their colonies. In plentiful water years, Franklin’s Gulls, Forster’s and Black Terns will also nest. By late summer, large numbers of American White Pelicans congregate throughout the valley wherever fish are available. Meanwhile, the marshes are alive with the sights and sounds of many other species, including American Bitterns, Sora and Virginia Rails, Marsh Wrens, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
birding1 Although some fall migrants already begin showing up in early July, it is in August when migration really gets underway with thousands of phalaropes, dowitchers, avocets and other shorebirds. Landbird migrants, including flycatchers, vireos, and warblers start moving from mid-August through late September. Beginning in September, wave after wave of waterfowl will arrive. October brings large numbers of White-crowned Sparrows, and pushes Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and other montane species down into the valley.
Red-tail-Hawk The first winter freezes push all but the hardiest migrants out as the winter residents, including Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Shrikes arrive. During mild winters the valley will continue to harbor fair numbers of ibis, egrets, herons and shorebirds.
Marsh-Wren Waterfowl begin returning in February and early March. Shorebirds begin arriving in small numbers in March, with migration peaking in the third week of April with thousands of avocets, stilts, sandpipers, dowitchers and other species. One or more Peregrine Falcons will take advantage of the growing concentration of shorebirds to visit the valley. Landbirds mostly begin arriving in April, peaking in early May, when residents such as House and Bewick’s Wrens, Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Bullock’s Orioles begin breeding. By early June, migration is coming to an end.

Birding Nevada

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Birding in Lahontan Brochure

Spring Wings