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Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Site Facts

Country, State, Province/Region:

United States of America, Kansas

Relative Location:

North part of Big Salt Marsh, Stafford County


38º 12’ N, 98º 32’ W



Basis for Designation:

Supports more than 500,000 shorebirds annually


22,135 acres


February 1994

Site Owner/Steward:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Site Partners:

Advertising & Communications Western Resources
Towns of Great Bend, Hutchinson, Stafford, Sterling, and St. John. 


Dan Severson, Refuge Manager
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

About Us

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) includes a diversity of sand prairie, inland salt marsh, and freshwater wetland habitat. The refuge contains 34 managed wetland units totaling over 7,000 surface acres when full with water. These are natural wetlands that have been enhanced by dike, canal, and control structure development. The salt flat portion of these units provides approximately 1,000 acres of high-quality shorebird habitat, especially on the north end of the refuge. The area is an inland salt marsh site, unaffected by tides.

The site provides an important habitat for feeding and roosting shorebirds, along with some nesting. Statewide surveys (2002-2006) indicate >75% of shorebirds counted during spring and fall migration occurred at either Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area or Quivira NWR (Hands 2008). Major migrations occur during spring (mid-April to early June) and fall (August to early October). The days of use over five years (between 1980-1984), which is considered a typical use period, was 305,092.

The site provides important habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including the Whooping Crane and interior Least Tern. In fact, Quivira NWR contains the largest breeding colony of the endangered interior Least Tern in Kansas. Bald Eagles, western Snowy Plovers, and Peregrine Falcons also are common here.  Nineteen Whooping Cranes were recorded at one time during the fall of 1993. Over 40 Whooping Cranes visited Quivira during the fall migration in 1996.

 The following species have been recorded using Quivira NWR (those with asterisks * are known to nest in the refuge):

American Avocet*
American Golden Plover
American Woodcock
Baird’s Sandpiper
Black-bellied Plover
Black-necked Stilt*
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Least Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Dowitcher
Marbled Godwit
Mountain Plover
Pectoral Sandpiper
Piping Plover
Red Knot
Red-necked Phalarope
Red Phalarope
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Snowy Plover*
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Upland Sandpiper*
Western Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Wilson’s Phalarope*
Wilson’s Snipe

Ecology & Conservation

Land use:
Agriculture, oil mining, and sight seeing.

The area is protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Current Threats:
The major threat involves the declining water inflows from Rattlesnake Creek due to the increase in irrigation in the upstream watershed. Also, the oil and gas development in the vicinities is a major concern. There are currently 17 active oil wells in the area and minor oil spills have occurred.     

Research and Management Activities:
Management is directed toward providing high-quality habitat for all migratory birds, waterfowl, and shorebirds, and conserving the integrity of biological systems. Units are periodically drawn down and manipulated by burning, mechanical methods, or haying for vegetation control. Drawdowns and refilling are timed, where possible, to provide additional shorebird habitat. Over 13,000 acres of grasslands are managed using prescribed burning and holistic grazing management to promote diversity of habitat for nesting and feeding, as the management opens up the marsh edges for shorebirds.

Survey research was conducted from 1989 through 1993.



Dan Severson
Refuge Manager
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
1434 NE 80th St
Stafford, Kansas 67578
Tel: (620) 486-2393
Fax: (620) 486-2315 

Site Partners

Advertising & Communications Western Resources
818 Kansas Ave., PO Box 889
Topeka, Kansas 66601
(This organization has assisted with construction of predator exclusion fencing around endangered Least Tern and Snowy Plover nesting areas.)

Towns of Great Bend, Hutchinson, Stafford, Sterling, and St. John.
Contact: Stafford Chamber of Commerce
101 S. Main St.
Stafford, Kansas 67578

Additional Resources


Ungar, I.A. 1964. A Phytosociological Analysis of the Big Salt Marsh, Stafford County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, 67:1.

Ungar, I.A. 1965. An Ecological Study of the Vegetation of the Big Salt Marsh, Stafford County, Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin, 66:1, pp. 1-99.

Boyd, Roger L. 1993. Site tenacity, philopatry, longevity, and population trends of least terns in Kansas and Northwestern Oklahoma, Proceedings, The Missouri River and its Tributaries Piping Plover and Least Tern symposium, SD Coop Wildlife Research Unit, pp, 196-205.

Skagen, S.K. and Knoff, F.L. 1993. Toward Conservation of midcontinental shorebird migrations. Conservation Biology, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 533-541.

Skagen, S.K., Knoff, F.L., Cade, B.S. 1993. Estimation of lipids and lean mass of migrating sandpipers. Condor, Vol. 95, pp. 944-956.

Skagen, S.K. and Knoff, F.L. 1994. Migrating shorebirds and habitat dynamics at a prairie wetland complex. Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 106, No. 1, pp. 91-105.

Hands, H.M. 2008. Shorebird (Charadriiformes) migration at selected sites throughout Kansas during 2002-2206. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, Vol. 111, No. 1/2, pp. 61-78.