Wetland birds in the northern Great Plains

By:  and 
Edited by: M.J. MacP.A. OplerC. E. Puckett Haecker, and P.D. Doran



When the Wisconsin glacier retreated about 10,000 years ago, it left innumerable depressions scattered throughout the northern Great Plains. These depressional wetlands, called prairie potholes, contain water for various lengths of time in most years (Kantrud et al. 1989). Their size, permanence, hydrology, water chemistry, plant associations, and invertebrate communities vary widely among wetlands and, within a basin, through time (Cowardin et al. 1979).

These diverse wetlands support a breeding avifauna as rich and varied as the wetlands themselves. Johnsgard (1979) listed 72 breeding bird species associated with freshwater pond environments in the Great Plains. Other species, such as the northern harrier, marbled godwit, Le Conte’s sparrow, and Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, are associated with grasslands but extensively use these prairie wetlands. Stewart (1975) identified 63 breeding bird species as wetland associates in North Dakota alone. Since 1975, several species could be added to Stewart’s list (Faanes and Stewart 1982), including the reintroduced Canada goose (Lee et al. 1989) and several herons, egrets, and ibises that have expanded their breeding range into the state (Lokemoen 1979). Most wetland birds are short-distance migrants, wintering primarily north of the United States–Mexico border (Igl and Johnson 1995).

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Wetland birds in the northern Great Plains
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 2 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Status and trends of the nation's biological resources
First page 454
Last page 455
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