Sonny Bono Salton Sea Refuge management programs maintain and improve habitat for wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. Waterfowl programs are designed to limit waterfowl depredations to adjacent croplands. The refuge provides habitat for over 375 bird species for many as a critical wintering or migration stopover area.
The refuge winters up to 30,000 snow, Ross's, and Canada geese, and 60,000 ducks from November through February. Marsh birds and shorebirds account for more than 6,000,000 use-days each year. Endangered species observed on the refuge include the southern bald eagle, peregrine falcon, California brown pelican, Yuma clapper rail, and desert pupfish.
A significant Yuma clapper rail population nests on the refuge. Sensitive species using the refuge include the fulvous whistling-duck, wood stork, long-billed curlew, mountain plover, western snowy plover, burrowing owl, and white-faced ibis.
Information and directions may be obtained at the refuge visitor center. A bookstore and a bird display are also located inside the center. Trails with interpretive signs and observation towers are available at refuge headquarters and Unit 1. A picnic area is located at headquarters, while a photography blind is accessible at Unit 1. During the winter, visitors may see yellow-footed gulls, ospreys, snow and Ross's geese, several species of ducks and shorebirds, and white-faced ibis. Mountain plovers can be seen occasionally and, if you're lucky, a blue-footed booby. During the spring and fall, a host of neotropical migrants, waterfowl, and shorebirds fly through the area. Wood storks can be seen in the summer. Burrowing owls can be seen year-round.
The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, and visitor center hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is no user fee. Waterfowl hunting on the refuge is administered by the California Dept. of Fish and Game. There is one hunt blind available for convenienced hunters.