Visit The Montezuma Wetlands Complex

50,000-acres of wetlands and associated uplands located at the north end of Cayuga Lake, in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of central New York

Recent Bird Reports from the MWC

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Montezuma Wetlands Complex Map and Guide

Important reminder to refuge visitors

To protect wildlife and their habitat and to provide the best opportunities in wildlife observation and photography, it is important not to disturb, injure, or damage plants and animals on the refuge.

In fact, it is a prohibited act as stated in 50 CFR 27.51. This disturbance includes flushing birds (remember to stay in your car along the Wildlife Drive, unless you’re at a designated viewing area such as the photo blind, the Spillway and Benning Marsh) and other wildlife or using electronic calls (or called “taping”) to lure birds closer for observation or photography.

Please remember to take only memories and photographs and leave only footprints.

Northern Montezuma

Northern Montezuma State Wildlife Management Area (NMWMA)
Over 7,700 acres of State-owned land managed by the NYS DEC.

Montezuma Audubon Center

Montezuma Audubon Center

Operated by Audubon New York, offering a variety of visitor services and trails.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Over 9,900 acres of protected lands. Part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System.

What is the Montezuma Wetlands Complex? How is it different from the Wildlife Refuge or the State Wildlife Management Area?

The Complex is comprised of more than 50,000 acres that are being restored and enhanced by a group of Federal and State partners, conservation organizations, and private landowners. Stakeholders include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that manages the Refuge and the Visitors Center, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that manages Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the Audubon Society that manages the Montezuma Audubon Center, The Nature Conservancy, and Ducks Unlimited.

The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge refers specifically to more than 9,000 acres within the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. This area is federal land that is managed specifically by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide quality habitat for migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and certain public uses. The Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area is 7,680 acres of public land owned and managed for wildlife and public use by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation.

When and where do the eagles nest? When do they fledge?

There are several Bald Eagle nests in the Complex. As of spring of 2008, they are found on the Refuge by the lock at the top of Cayuga Lake (Mud Lock/Lock No. 1), on Tschache Pool, and on the northern part of the Refuge by Armitage Road. They are found on Northern Montezuma WMA at Martens Tract, which is west of Howland Island, and near Crusoe Lake. And, they are found on private lands within the Complex off Route 31 on the Savannah muck, and near Duck Lake. However, you are also likely to see these majestic birds sitting in one of the dead trees along the canal — just as you begin the Wildlife Drive — or flying over the Main Pool, Tschache Pool, May’s Point Pool — even the Visitor Center at the Refuge! Similar opportunities exist on Northern Montezuma WMA along the Seneca River at the west side of Howland Island, and at the end of Morgan Road.

Bald eagles generally hatch mid-April. The young birds leave the nest (fledge) at 10-12 weeks of age, but are not considered mature (or of mating age) until they are 4 or 5 years old. Our eagles usually stay year-round, as long as the canals remain unfrozen and the eagles can find food.

Remember to use caution when viewing nesting eagles. Human disturbance can result in nest abandonment.

What are the big nests on the highway coming in?
These big nests belong to osprey. Stop in the Refuge’s Visitor Center to see a live streaming video feed of the nest on North Spring Pool. You can view other osprey nests from the Visitor Center viewing deck and the South Spring Pool parking area.
When do osprey hatch?
Our osprey typically lay eggs around Mother’s Day (mid-May) and the eggs hatch around Father’s Day (mid-June). The young osprey will take their first flights 50-60 days after hatching and depend on their parents 10-20 days after that.
Where can I see cerulean warblers?
These brilliant blue migratory songbirds are typically tree-top dwellers along waterways. While it proves very difficult to see them, you may hear them around the Refuge’s headquarters area or at May’s Point. A visit to the Howland Island Unit of Northern Montezuma WMA should also be productive in the spring. The DEC’s annual surveys suggest well over 35 nesting territories are established on HTo access Howland Island, take Route 89 north from the Refuge, through the town of Savannah. Make a right on Savannah Spring Lake Road and then another right onto Carncross Road. There is a parking area at the end of Carncross. From Port Byron, access Howland Island by heading north on Route 38, then left on Howland Island Road. The abandoned DOT bridge is still suitable for foot traffic
Why can't we bike or walk on the Refuge's Wildlife Drive?
Biking and walking are not permitted on the Wildlife Drive because of the disturbance to wildlife. Feel free to pull over and photograph the wildlife, but please stay in your car until you reach the designated observation areas. Your vehicle effectively serves as a “blind” and minimizes the disturbance to wildlife. Stop in the Refuge’s Visitor Center or the Montezuma Audubon Center, which is located north of Savannah on Route 89, for a map of where you can bike in the area. One of the more popular sites is Howland Island in Northern Montezuma.
Where can I take a walk at the Refuge?
All hiking at the Refuge is limited to established trails. Please remember to remain on designated trails and do not pick or collect anything but litter.


The Seneca Trail is a one-mile loop that goes along the perimeter of the Refuge’s headquarters. It begins near the Visitor’s Center, goes out to the observation tower, crosses the wildlife drive, and leads back alongside the canal. Please note that the Seneca Trail is partially closed during osprey nesting season (May through July and possibly into August, depending on when the young leave the nest). The osprey begin nesting in April and the young will fledge in the summer. These powerful birds can be very sensitive during nesting season and our presence along the trail could cause them to leave the nest. When the adult leaves the nest, the eggs are left uncovered and may not reach the right temperatures for hatching. The closed portion of the trail will re-open this summer at the Refuge Manager’s discretion.

The Esker Brook Trails are open from January through October. You can get to this series of 3/4-mile trails from Lay Road, right on East Tyre Road. There is also a mile connecting trail from the South Spring Pool parking area on Route 89. This trail will take you along the southern edge of South Spring Pool and through a grass/shrub field. It joins the Esker Brook Trails’ Ridge Trail at the top of the ridge, a short distance later. If you hike the Esker Brook Trails, you can walk through the woods, along a brook, and around two ponds. You may see or hear songbirds, woodpeckers, great blue herons, ducks, white-tailed deer or small mammals along the way. A trail guide is available at the Visitor Center. Dogs are allowed on the Esker Brook Trails, but they must be kept on a short leash (no longer than 10 feet).

Northern Montezuma has walking trails at the Montezuma Audubon Center, Turtle Pond, and on Howland Island. The recreation trails in this area range from hard-packed gravel roads, and stone dust trails, to bark chip and grass-covered woodland paths.

Where can we canoe and kayak?
There are many areas to canoe and kayak on the Seneca River, the Clyde River, and the New York State Barge or Erie Canal. In seasons of high water, Crusoe Creek also offers opportunity. A favorite spring and fall trek is around Howland Island. Stop in the Refuge’s Visitor’s Center or the Montezuma Audubon Center to pick up a “Paddling the MWC Waterways” map and trail information sheet. Canoeing and kayaking are not allowed on the Refuge.
Why do the water levels in the pools change so dramatically?
The weather is not the only factor determining the water levels at Montezuma – the managers also control the depth of the pools in order to manage the area for optimal wildlife habitat. For example, the water in the new pool around the Visitor Center is currently being kept low to encourage the growth before the Fall shorebird migration. Similar drawdowns are part of the management plans for Northern Montezuma. Several impoundments or pools on Northern Montezuma and Howland Island are drawn down on a schedule to allow growth of beneficial plants. The ‘chain’ of impoundments on the Island were designed to allow water to flow from the highest pool to the lowest pool when re-flooding is needed.
What's the problem with that pretty purple loosestrife?
Purple loosestrife is an invasive (non-native) plant of Eurasian origin. Purple loosestrife has a competitive edge over our native wetland plants because it is able to grow in a variety of soil types and in various depths of water. It also has a lack of natural enemies in North America. It can push out the native plants, causing a change in vegetation that can be disastrous to wetland communities and damage the very habitat we are trying to protect. Throughout the Complex, a biological control program using the plants’ natural insect enemies – a root-mining weevil and a leaf-eating beetle – is being used to control this invasive plant.
Who do I contact if I find injured wildlife?
Here are some trusted Wildlife Rehabilitators

  • Jean Soprano at 315-695-6418
  • Morgan Hapeman at 607-227-2622
  • Mary Lou Hains at 315-415-4187

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

As part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System, the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge provides for “…the conservation, management, and restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats… for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

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Current Bird Reports

eBird Data from the Montezuma Wetlands Complex

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Montezuma Audubon Center

The MAC is Audubon New York's first education facility in central New York, an important part of the network of Audubon Centers, and a new resource for educating residents and tourists about one of New York's greatest wildlife resources.

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Northern Montezuma

Northern Montezuma State Wildlife Management Area Over 7,700 state-owned acres of emergent marshes, forested wetlands, old fields, meadows, farm fields and woodlands. This state-owned public land is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Visit the DEC's Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area Webpage The Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (NMWMA) is...

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