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Tamarac Refuge's raptors

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Summer is a wonderful time to celebrate being with family and friends by observing the wild families found in nature.

Look for deer fawns hiding behind their mothers, bear cubs exploring their new world and eaglets demanding to be fed. Experience the vibrant colors and fragrances of the summer woodland flowers including the Canada anemone, Joe Pye weed, wild geraniums, and Black-eyed Susan. Listen for songbirds as they settle in for the summer season.

See you at the refuge where the blacktop ends and the backwoods begins!

Wildlife watching

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they care for their young. Portions of the refuge are closed to the public during this crucial time, but many viewing opportunities still exist. The most optimum times for viewing wildlife occur around sunrise and sunset. But sometimes even an afternoon visit can be rewarding to the quiet, watchful observer.

To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, take a drive on the Blackbird Auto Tour Route. This five-mile drive follows the edges of lakes, marshes and meadows. If you feel inclined to exercise, hike the two-mile long Old Indian Hiking Trail and experience the beauty of the maple basswood forest.


Try your luck in one of our five lakes open to fishing. There are many varieties of fish to be caught including crappie, walleye, sunfish, northern pike and bass. A fishing map and regulations can be obtained at the refuge information kiosks or the visitor center.

Visitor Center

If you've got questions, our enthusiastic staff has answers. We are eager to help you make the most of your visit. Check out our interactive exhibits and learn about the diverse habitats, which support Tamarac's many species of wildlife.

Learn about the historical use of the refuge including that of the Ojibwe Indians and the European settlers. Be sure to view our large screen presentation entitled: "Tamarac: Its Life and Legends." Before you leave, browse in the Tamarac Bookshop. Proceeds from sales support educational programs at the refuge.

The visitor center is located nine miles north of Hwy 34. Visitor center hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Guided tours, Sunday movies and presentations

Wildlife Excursions will be offered every Thursday, June through August, from 10 a.m. to noon. Explore the refuge with a knowledgeable guide. Search for wildlife and learn about the cultural and natural history of Tamarac. Wildlife films, special programs or activities will be offered every Sunday at 2 p.m.

Sunday, July 4 -- Film: American Eagle. Take an unprecedented look at a year in the life of North America's most recognized aerial predator. From the pristine wilderness of Alaska to the Upper Mississippi River Valley, go behind the scenes and into the nest to discover the eagle's struggle to survive.

Sunday, July 18 -- Film: Frogs, the Thin Green Line. Frogs have been on this planet for 250 million years. Today they are at the center of one of the greatest mass extinctions since the dinosaurs. Learn about this environmental crisis unfolding in our own backyard.

Sunday, July 25 -- Magic in the Air. Hummingbirds take extraordinary to a whole new level. By using camera able to capture over 500 images a second, the hummingbirds' magical world can finally be seen and appreciated.

Sunday, July 11 -- 2 pm. The Scoop on Poop. For kids of all ages! We may not see all the critters we want to on the refuge, but they leave plenty behind! Discover they wonders of scat! You'll even get to create your own scat to take home.

Saturday, June 17 -- 10 a.m. to noon. Wildlife Excursion. Join a refuge ranger for an informative and fun adventure on the refuge. Search for wildlife and learn about the natural and cultural history of Tamarac.

Refuge Raptors

While creating the United States, our founding fathers chose the bald eagle to represent our new country's pride, freedom and strength. However, as the bald eagle was given this symbolic status, it often overshadows other birds of prey, or raptors. There are many raptors that have equally amazing features to bald eagles and also play a significant role in ecosystem balance.

There are seven groups of raptors: eagles, hawks, vultures, owls, falcons, harriers and osprey. The name raptor is derived from the Latin word, rapere, meaning to seize or grasp, which is what birds of prey are known for when hunting their quarry. (The velociraptor is a widely known dinosaur that was also known for speed and strike of their prey when hunting).

Raptors all have many similar adaptations that set them apart from other birds making them master predators of the sky. First they have extremely keen eyesight they use for hunting at high vantage points or far distances, such as while soaring or sometimes while perched on a tree or building.

They also have long toes, sharp claw-like talons, and short hooked beaks that have evolved to tear apart flesh and muscle. They have strong, compact bodies with rounded heads to cut back wind resistance. In raptor species, the female is larger and heavier than its male mate. This is called reverse sexual dimorphism, and allows the mated pair to hunt more efficiently for a larger variety of prey.

Here are some of Tamarac's popular refuge raptors and areas you might be able to find them:

Osprey -- Often called the fish eagle, the osprey noted for its unique hunting style. They hunt by flying over a body of water about 60 feet in the air. When a fish is seen, an osprey will hover for a few seconds, flap a few times and plunge nearly straight into the water. A plummeting bird turns to a feet-first position before going in. This impact makes a large splash, and birds may momentarily disappear below the surface. There are at least two easily visible osprey nests at Tamarac; one is located at the beginning of the auto tour and the other is on Bruce Boulevard.

Red-tailed Hawk -- The thrilling raspy scream of the red-tailed hawk is often wrongfully credited to the bald eagle. In fact, when you see almost any type of hawk or eagle in a movie from Hollywood, the cry being played is the screech of a red-tailed hawk. They hunt mainly from a perch and may return to the same spot daily. They can also be found on roadsides, as well as soaring over fields, pastures, parks and open woodlands.

Broad-winged Hawk --These birds of prey will generally make their meals from insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, as well as the occasional songbird. They can be found primarily in forests, as well as perching near roads or trails. However, their nests may be difficult to find because they build in tall trees.

American Kestrel -- The American Kestrel is the in falcon family. Roughly the size of a robin, its hunting strategies are equally impressive to the larger birds of prey. The kestrel can be found hovering around an open area before plummeting itself to the ground and only stopping seconds short of impact to snatch it's quarry. Its size does not deter it from attacking prey such as rodents and songbirds. Kestrels can be found throughout Tamarac in forest openings, grasslands and marshes.

These majestic, powerful raptors that reign over the skies are fundamental in a balanced forest ecosystem because they serve as waste cleanup by disposing of carrion. They also keep rabbits and other species' populations in control that may otherwise overbrowse on essential forest vegetation.

According to refuge biologists, raptors are helping out several of our special concern species such as the Golden-winged warbler and woodcock because they decrease the rodents and smaller mammals that predate on their young and eggs.

In this month of celebrating Independence Day and bald eagles, lets not forget about those other extraordinary raptor species and we invite you out to the refuge to come see these magnificent birds of prey for yourself!