A Birding Paradise
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is ideally located at the eastern edge of the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. The Cheyenne Bottoms and nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge form a wetlands complex of global importance to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. As such, the center is situated to interpret the richly unique natural resources of the region. Visit our Bird Watch page for details on the most recent arrivals or see what has been posted on eBird.
Birding Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
Of the twelve large marshes historically present in Kansas, only three remain: Cheyenne Bottoms, Quivira, and Jamestown. With more than 41,000 acres in the Cheyenne Bottoms Basin and more than 28,000 acres managed by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Nature Conservancy, Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest wetland in the interior of the United States.
Of the 417 species of birds documented in Kansas, a minimum of 340 have been observed at the Bottoms. Cheyenne Bottoms falls square in the midst of the Central Flyway – equivalent to a sky interstate for migrating birds, from tiny sandpipers to majestic whooping cranes. The International Shorebird Survey estimates that approximately 45% of North America’s shorebird population stops at Cheyenne Bottoms when migrating north in the spring. The Bottoms attract an estimated 90% of the White-rumped, Baird’s, and Stilt Sandpipers; Long-billed Dowitchers; and Wilson’s Phalaropes. Waterfowl numbers can approach several hundred thousand.
Annually, an average of more than 60,000 visitors come to the Cheyenne Bottoms for the purpose of hunting, bird watching, environmental study, fishing, and trapping. According to a study done in 1987, the economic impact of the Cheyenne Bottoms on the State’s economy is greater than $2.8 million annually. The impact on Barton County alone is in excess of $1.8 million.
Cheyenne Bottoms has many titles that describe its global significance to bird life.
- Wetland of International Importance – one of only 34 U.S. sites designated by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
- Globally Important Bird Area – named by the American Bird Conservancy.
- Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve – designated by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
Wings and Wetlands Festival
Visit Great Bend, Kansas in spring for a unique opportunity to bird two of the best birding locations in the region, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, as well as other area hot spots. The Wings and Wetlands Festival is a biannual event, held in late April or early May. Beyond great bird watching experiences, the weekend festivities also include fun workshops, seminars, relaxing socials, and opportunities to experience area attractions along the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. Early registration is recommended as space for this popular event fills quickly. Hope to see you in 2015.