Tule Marsh Artwork

The Tule Marsh mural was painted by Larry Eifert. He has been painting nature professionally for 40 years. No artist has more work in America’s National Parks, refuges and preserves. This mural is a depiction of Truckee Meadows (current location of Sparks/Reno, NV or the Carson River wetlands south of there) as it might have appeared during the days of the California Trail. It is located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between where the Truckee and Carson rivers leave the mountains and enter the Great Basin. The information on the birds shown below is based on identification details at allaboutbirds.org. Some species may have been inadvertently misidentified. If you have a suggested correction, please use the contact information in the Info button at the bottom of the screen to let us know!

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Black-Crowned Night-Heron.

American Bittern

You'll need sharp eyes to catch sight of an American Bittern. This streaky, brown and buff heron can materialize among the reeds, and disappear as quickly, especially when striking a concealment pose with neck stretched and bill pointed skyward. These stealthy carnivores stand motionless amid tall marsh vegetation, or patiently stalk fish, frogs, and insects. They are at their most noticeable in spring, when the marshes resound with their odd booming calls that sounds like the gulps of a thirsty giant.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the American Bittern.

Marsh Wren

The pugnacious Marsh Wren clings to wetland vegetation, tail cocked and legs splayed, often with each foot wrapped around a different stalk. This rusty-brown wren has black-and-white streaks down its back and a white eyebrow. It sings a rapid-fire gurgling, trilling, and buzzy song from the depths of the marsh where its secretive life unfolds. Under the cover of reeds, males build multiple nests and breed with more than one female. They also destroy eggs and nestlings of other Marsh Wrens and marsh-nesting birds.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Marsh Wren.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

With a golden head, a white patch on black wings, and a call that sounds like a rusty farm gate opening, the Yellow-headed Blackbird demands your attention. Look for them in western and prairie wetlands, where they nest in reeds directly over the water. They’re just as impressive in winter, when huge flocks seem to roll across farm fields. Each bird gleans seeds from the ground, then leapfrogs over its flock mates to the front edge of the ever-advancing troupe.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Canvasback Duck (background), Redhead Duck (foreground)

Often called the aristocrat of ducks, the Canvasback holds its long sloping forehead high with a distinguished look. Males stand out with a rusty head and neck and a gleaming whitish body bookended in black. Females are pale brown overall, but that Canvasback head shape still gives them away. This diving duck eats plant tubers at the bottom of lakes and wetlands. It breeds in lakes and marshes and winters by the thousands on freshwater lakes and coastal waters.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Canvasback Duck.

With a gleaming cinnamon head setting off a body marked in black and business gray, adult male Redheads light up the open water of lakes and coastlines. These sociable ducks molt, migrate, and winter in sometimes-huge flocks, particularly along the Gulf Coast, where winter numbers can reach the thousands. Summers find them nesting in reedy ponds of the Great Plains and West. Female and young Redheads are uniform brown, with the same black-tipped, blue-gray bill as the male.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Redhead.

Eared Grebe

The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe is a small waterbird with a very thin bill and a bright red eye. In the summer months, golden wisps fan out from their cheeks as they dance and run across the water courting. They breed in colonies in shallow wetlands in western North America and head by the hundreds and thousands to salty inland waters to feast on brine shrimp before heading farther south. In winter, they lose the golden wisps, turning gray and white.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Eared Grebe.

Black Tern

An outlier in a world of white seabirds, breeding Black Terns are a handsome mix of charcoal-gray and jet black. Their delicate form and neatly pointed wings provide tremendous agility as these birds flutter and swoop to pluck fish from the water’s surface or veer to catch flying insects, much as a swallow does. Black Terns nest in large freshwater marshes, in small, loose colonies. They winter in flocks along tropical coastlines. In the last half-century, this species has lost about half its North American population.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Black Tern.

Western Grebe

Setting off crisp black-and-white plumage with a yellow bill and red eye, the slender Western Grebe is an elegant presence on lakes and ocean coasts of western North America. Along with its close relative, the Clark’s Grebe, it’s renowned for a ballet-like courtship display in which male and female “run” across the water in synchrony, their long necks curved in an S-shape. These waterbirds rarely come ashore, instead taking long dives to catch fish and other aquatic animals.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Western Grebe.

Black_Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilts are among the most stately of the shorebirds, with long rose-pink legs, a long thin black bill, and elegant black-and-white plumage that make them unmistakable at a glance. They move deliberately when foraging, walking slowly through wetlands in search of tiny aquatic prey. When disturbed, stilts are vociferous, to put it mildly, and their high, yapping calls carry for some distance. 

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Black-Necked Stilt.

American Avocet

The American Avocet takes elegance to a new level. This long-legged wader glides through shallow waters swishing its slender, upturned bill from side to side to catch aquatic invertebrates. It dons a sophisticated look for summer with a black-and-white body and a rusty head and neck. During the winter the head and neck turn a grayish white, but the bird loses none of its elegance as it forages along coastal waters or rests while standing on one leg.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the American Avocet.

Canada Goose

The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks. Thousands of “honkers” migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as lawns have proliferated, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Canada Goose.

Long-Billed Curlew

North America's largest shorebird, the Long-Billed Curlew, is a graceful creature with an almost impossibly long, thin, and curved bill. This speckled, cinnamon-washed shorebird probes deep into mud and sand for aquatic invertebrates on its coastal wintering grounds and picks up grasshoppers on the breeding grounds. It breeds in the grasslands of the Great Plains and Great Basin and spends the winter in wetlands, tidal estuaries, mudflats, flooded fields, and beaches.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Long-Billed Curlew.

White-Faced Ibis

A dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill, the White-Faced Ibis is a western replacement for the Glossy Ibis. Similar in appearance and habits, the two species can be distinguished only by slight differences in coloring of the face and legs.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the White-Faced Ibis.

Snowy Plover

The dapper Snowy Plover scurries across sandy habitats as inconspicuously as a puff of sea foam blown by the wind. These pale brown shorebirds are highlighted with a black or brown partial collar and a short black bill. They are hardy survivors that forage for invertebrates on ocean beaches and in desolate salt flats and alkaline lakes. Snowy Plovers make nearly invisible nests on beaches, where they are easily disturbed by humans, dogs, and beach vehicles.

Tap the play button below to hear the sounds made by the Snowy Plover.