Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge was established to develop and manage a system of wetlands and grasslands unique to the Red River Valley of North Dakota. The Refuge contains an intermittent stream and pools of water that flows into the Turtle River, a tributary of the Red River. Located within the intensively farmed Red River Valley, the Refuge serves as an important migration stopover and staging area for shorebirds and waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) in an area where there are few options for waterbirds.
Bird Tracking Towers on Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Who is involved?

The University of North Dakota is conducting research on birds utilizing the refuge and surrounding landscape. Through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, the City of Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and the Grand Forks International Airport students are able to track the movement of tagged birds and begin to identify broader bird migration patterns.  

University of North Dakota Research Overview

Bird strike risk is a major concern for airports. In Grand Forks County there are two major airfields, the Grand Forks Airport and the Grand Forks Air Force Base, which are situated among a variety of conservation areas and other attractive habitats for birds. Birds are tagged at and around the Grand Forks Wastewater treatment facility, Grand Forks International Airport, and the Grand Forks Air Force Base to determine bird movement and impacts of management to reduce aircraft collisions with birds. The primary objective of the project is to track bird movement across seven tower sites with associated node networks that provide more detailed location information in Grand Forks County to understand bird movement patterns and risk to aircraft. In doing this, researchers are also able to track broader bird migration patterns of tagged birds as part of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) and can determine if birds return to the area in subsequent years.

What is the equipment?

Researchers are utilizing the Motus Wildlife Tracking System that uses automated radio telemetry to track migratory animals. Birds tagged on the refuge by UND will be fitted will small radio tags from Cellular Tracking Technologies that can be detected by Motus. The birds are detected as they pass near the towers and researchers work together to understand bird survival and migration patterns across a variety of Motus stations located in Canada, the U.S. and south into Mexico.

Species Targeted

Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-billed gulls, Franklin’s gulls.

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Local Contact Information 

Dr. Susan Felege, Professor, University of North Dakota 701-777-3699

Emily Fernan, Wildlife Refuge Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 701-662-8611 x333

Visit Us

Just a short a 15-minute drive from the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to view a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. The Refuge serves as an important stopover for shorebirds during peak spring and fall migration. In summer, lower water levels create mudflats that attract a diversity of species. In late July and early August, fall shorebird migration peaks, and you can see many species, including American avocet, Wilson's phalarope, willet, marbled godwit, upland and spotted sandpiper.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge supports a diversity of wetland and grassland wildlife. In addition to the 1,207 acres of Refuge lands and waters, there are several Service-owned waterfowl production areas and a State-owned wildlife management area wildlife management area
      For practical purposes, a wildlife management area is synonymous with a national wildlife refuge or a game preserve. There are nine wildlife management areas and one game preserve in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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      adjacent to and nearby that provide additional grassland and wetland habitat. The other lands intermingled with and surrounding these public lands are privately owned. 

      What We Do

      The primary purpose of the Refuge and neighboring public land is to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. During migration, shorebirds depend on areas biologists call "stopovers" where they can rest and feed. These stopover sites are usually small, shallow wetlands and mudflats. To the extent possible, Refuge staff manage the Refuge water levels to meet those needs, providing wetlands with a variety of water levels and open mudflats. The Refuge grasslands are managed to support breeding birds and other local wildlife. 

      Our Species

      Multiple species of waterfowl and shorebirds depend on Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge as an area to feed and rest during long spring and fall migrations.