Pixley National Wildlife Refuge

Tulare County, California

This is not the official site of the refuge: this is a fan site - find the official site here.


General Information & History

A visit to Pixley National Wildlife Refuge on 8 Dec. 2003

"Greetings," said the dark phased Red-tailed Hawk, "what is your business here?"

"I come to see cranes," said I.

"Go forth, there are many to be seen and heard," replied the hawk.

So on I drove along the bumpy rutted road leading to the refuge.


Arriving at the parking area in the early afternoon, I hoped I would see a few cranes on the refuge. Normally mid-day is not the best time as they forage far afield and spend the night on the refuge.

I look to get a trail brochure but find a nest of paper wasps instead.

I found the guides in another place well away from the wasps.

I start down the trail and look over hundreds of acres of grass and marshland long ago withered in the blazing summer sun.

Many birds are enjoying the seeds of the dry sunflowers. A Lincoln's Sparrow pops up to see what is making the noise.

"Greetings, what is your business here?" said the sparrow.

"I come to see cranes," said I.

"Well, I am awfully cute but if you want to see cranes, go forth, there are many here now!" chirped the sparrow.

More rustling amongst the dry sunflower heads, and up pops a curious young White-crowned Sparrow.

"Greetings, what 'cha doin'?" said the sparrow.

"I come to see cranes," said I.

"Well, I am too young to know what cranes are, but there are lots of big noisy things over there -->" pointed the sparrow.

I keep walking up the trail, but there are so many other things to see.

A Northern Mockingbird darts in and out of the trees and bushes. A Spotted Towhee stealthily hops under cover of the mulefat, only to be given away by its strangely hollow chip.

I look down to see fresh tracks of coyotes and kit fox.

I have been told of a beautiful dark bobcat that inhabits the refuge, but have never seen this animal.

I remember the last time I was on the refuge, and saw a Great Horned Owl in the willows. I search and sure enough a dark object turns out to be a sleepy owl.

"Hooo goes there?" snorted the owl.

"I come to see cranes," said I.

"Well, can't you see I am sleeping, if you must see cranes, be gone, they are on the other side of the refuge, and they disturb my sleep as well!" grumbled the grouchy owl.

A Tree Swallow whizzed by my head. "Follow me I can show you where there are some tasty bugs to eat."

"But," I protested. "I came to see cranes."

"Well then certainly pay no attention to that Variegated Meadowhawk trying to hide from me. Cranes are just a few steps more."

Finally, I think I hear the cacophony of crane song. "Hey little squirrel, have you seen cranes?"

The California ground squirrel replied, "what are you daft lady, what do you think is making all that racket?"

Squirrelly bugger was right on as I looked down the levee and what did I see but hundreds of cranes lounging along the levees and in the waters of this wonderful place.

Cranes are quite particular about being disturbed and hundreds took to the air as I approached.

They circled and circled. Squawking their "Garook" Garook" call all the while.

Not cranes but Ross's Geese also shared the skies with the cranes and other allies.

Thank you Fish & Wildlife Service for making this place safe for crane's and other critters. I intend to visit again before the cranes depart in March for their breeding grounds.

The rest of the day flew by as I sat and stared at the marvelous majesty of the Pixley cranes until the sun set and the moon rose. What a magical place, our lovely little blue planet, I felt so satiated in the warmth of nature's enduring comfort.

Take your own tour - Cranes arrive in late September and depart for breeding grounds by late February or early March

The refuge is open from from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, 7 days a week for birding and nature observation. From late September through late February cranes may be normally found early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The cranes leave the refuge to forage in nearby agricultural and natural fields during the day.

Nature Alley is dedicated to protecting natural communities wherever they exist. She is involved in many scientific and educational programs, promoting environmental appreciation and ethics.


Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex
P.O. Box 670

Delano, CA 93216-0670

(661) 725 2767

Refuge Weather by NOAA

USFWS Kern National Wildlife Refuge - Official Site

Maps & Directions

Directions to the refuge: From State Hwy 99. At Earlimart take Ave. 56 (Sierra Ave.) west 5.7 miles. Take Road 88 north for approximately 1 mile until you cross a small ditch (Deer Creek), on the left find a gravel parking area. The trailhead is here. Trail guides are available in the box on the information sign.


Central Valley Location of Kern & Pixley

Road Map

Trail and Planning Map

Websites of Interest




Refuge Wildlife


Kern River Preserve

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Windwolves Preserve

Desert Tortoise Preserve

Lokern Preserve

Sand Ridge Preserve

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park Fort Tejon State Historic Park Pixley Vernal Pools Preserve Tule Elk State Reserve

Kaweah Oaks Preserve

Semitropic Ridge Preserve

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page updated 08-Jan-2015