This Important Bird Area in southern Indiana is where to go to find Wood Duck, Tundra Swan, Red-headed Woodpecker, Barred Owl, Prothonotary Warbler, and the occasional Whooping Crane.
By Marcia Walker | Published: 10/22/2010
Muscatatuck has been my home away from home for decades. I have explored most of it and know its nooks and crannies. Its woodlands, fields, and marshes attract great birds all year long: sparrows and waterfowl in winter, warblers and swallows in summer, and migrants in spring and fall. Every now and then, surprises turn up, like a White Ibis in July 2009 and a Mississippi Kite that dropped in one afternoon this past summer.
I’m a reporter and used to volunteer at the refuge. My experiences ran the gamut from helping to band Wood Ducks to assisting a biologist track newly released river otters. The refuge was the first release site for the reintroduced animals in the state; otters have since become well established and are frequently spotted by visitors.
Muscatatuck is also home to one of the largest tracts of bottomland forest remaining in Indiana, and consequently, its populations of Red-headed Woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler, and Wood Duck are significant. And Whooping Cranes from the eastern migratory population occasionally stop here. What’s not to love? — Marcia Walker
Marcia Walker is an award-winning reporter for the Salem Leader in southern Indiana. She was a charter member of the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society and the refuge’s first bookstore manager.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Wetlands, forests, and open fields.
Flat to rolling. The Chestnut Ridge Trail, behind the Visitor Center, includes a boardwalk through a wetlands area; a portion of the trail is wheelchair-accessible. Car birding via auto tour. A viewing platform with mounted spotting scopes is available at one point on the tour.
More than 275 species. Year-round: Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Wild Turkey, Carolina Wren, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird. Winter: Tundra Swan, White-crowned, White-throated, and American Tree Sparrows, Purple Finch, Northern Harrier. Spring and summer: Tree Swallow, Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers, American Woodcock (February through May), House Wren, Brown Thrasher, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Green and Great Blue Herons. Spring and fall migrants: Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Osprey (late April to mid-May).
When to go
Visitor center has a bookstore, restrooms, and a bird-viewing room that overlooks an area that has been landscaped for birds. Restaurants, motels, and gas stations in Seymour. Each year on International Migratory Bird Day, the second Saturday in May, the refuge hosts the Wings Over Muscatatuck festival.
National wildlife refuge. No entry fee. Open from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year.
Watch for woodcock courtship flights north of the main gate, north of Sandhill Ponds, or across the parking lot from Myers Cabin.
For more info
River bottoms near Brownstown
About 20 miles southwest of Seymour. Flocks of Sandhill Cranes arrive in late winter and early spring.
Hoosier National Forest, Pleasant Run Unit
About an hour’s drive northwest of Muscatatuck. Globally Important Bird Area. Abundant breeding populations of warblers, tanagers, Wood Thrush, and other neotropical migrants.