US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in the Journal of Wildlife Management 48(2): 426-437.


Breeding populations of 28 species of wetland-dwelling birds other than waterfowl (Anatidae) were censused on 1,321 wetlands lying within the prairie pothole region of North Dakota. Ecological distribution and two crude measures of relative density were calculated for the 22 commonest species using eight wetland classes. Semipermanent wetlands supported nearly two-thirds of the population and were used by all 22 species, whereas seasonal wetlands contained about one-third of the population and were used by 20 species. Semipermanent, fen, and temporary wetlands contained highest bird densities on the basis of wetland area; on the basis of wetland unit, densities were highest on semipermanent, permanent, alkali, and fen wetlands. The highest ranking of semipermanent wetlands by all three measures of use was probably because these wetlands, as well as being relatively numerous and large, were vegetatively diverse. The fairly large proportion of the bird population supported by seasonal wetlands was a result of wetland abundance and moderate vegetative diversity. Increased vegetative diversity results from the development of characteristic zones of hydrophytes at sites where water persists longer during the growing season. Frequent cultivation of prairie wetlands results in the replacement of tall, robust perennials by bare soil or stands of short, weak-stemmed annuals that likely are unattractive to nesting birds.