Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 40(3/4): SeptemberlDecember 2008, pp 73-86


Sunflower fields are well-documented as foraging habitat for fallmigrating blackbirds (Family Icteridae). There is, however, a paucity of information on the use of sunflower fields by non-blackbirds. We assessed non-blackbird use of 12 ripening sunflower fields in the Prairie Pothole Region of central North Dakota. From mid-August to mid-October 2000, we counted 4,129 individual birds, consisting of 22 families and 61 species, in the sample fields and within 5 m of the field edges. We saw the largest number of birds from 18 September to 27 September. The Family Emberizidae (sparrows) accounted for 26% of the species and 20% of the individual birds recorded. We also assessed the influence of habitat factors in and around sunflower fields on bird numbers and found that grass and weeds in sunflower fields were correlated significantly with bird abundance. High species richness and abundance suggested that ripening sunflower fields and associated landscape features provided habitat in the northern Great Plains for fall migrating birds.