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Breeding Birds of North Dakota

Agricultural Communities


Croplands

These widespread disturbance communities created by man represent the most extensive habitat type in North Dakota. Data based on random sampling indicate that croplands occupied about 48 percent of the state in 1967. However, even excluding the small, heavily forested Turtle Mountain Region, the proportional area occupied by croplands varied greatly from one biotic area to another, ranging from a low of 15 percent on the Little Missouri Slope to a high of 81 percent on the Agassiz Lake Plain. Between these extremes the proportional cropland area varied as follows: Missouri Slope, 31 percent; Missouri Coteau, 32 percent; Coteau Slope, 45 percent; Northwestern Drift Plain, 58 percent; Northeastern Drift Plain, 62 percent; and Southern Drift Plain, 63 percent.

Unfortunately, nearly all tracts of cropland have been established at the expense of losing extensive areas of native prairie grasslands. In addition, potholes or sloughs within cropland fields are frequently drained in order to increase the acreage devoted to crops. Since croplands are relatively unattractive to birds during the nesting season, these drastic changes in environment have resulted in pronounced reductions in the total statewide breeding populations.

Various strains of wheat represent the preeminent cropland type throughout the state. Other crops of importance include oats, barley, and flax. Rye is occasionally grown, and corn is locally important. Within the Agassiz Lake Plain Region, extensive acreage also is devoted to the growing of sugar beets, potatoes, soy beans, and sunflowers. Cropland fields are commonly represented by distinct developmental stages including bare fallow fields, fields of sprout growth, fields of mature grain, and stubble fields. Many species of foreign pest plants have been inadvertently introduced, and, locally, some of these have become very troublesome weeds. Farming operations frequently include the practice of summer fallowing every second or third year. This leaves much cropland devoid of vegetation throughout each growing season.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

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Secondary intraneous species:

Extraneous species:


Domestic Haylands

An occasional field on many farms is devoted to the growing of domestic hay crops. The more common species of hay that are seeded on these fields include two legumes--alfalfa and sweetclover--and one tall-grass species--smooth brome.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

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Secondary intraneous species: Extraneous species:

Retired Croplands

During recent years the federal government has instituted agricultural programs that are designed to curb unwarranted increases in surplus crop production. Many farmers have taken advantage of the monetary rewards offered by these programs and have removed some of their fields from active crop production. These fields are generally referred to as Soil Bank or Cropland Adjustment Program (CAP) fields.

Usually fields of this type are seeded to a variety of domestic grasses and legumes. These include smooth brome, crested wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, tall wheatgrass, alfalfa, and sweetclover (usually yellow sweetclover). In addition, many pioneering coarse weed species often invade these fields. These include quackgrass, kochia, Russian thistle, flixweed, prairie rose, common evening primrose, horseweed, false ragweed, absinthe, Canada thistle, and sowthistle.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

Primary intraneous species: Secondary intraneous species: Extraneous species:

Fencerows, Section Lines, Roadsides, and Right-of-ways

In agricultural areas, narrow strips of weedy habitat frequently border cropland and hayland fields and tracts of grazed prairie. These usually occur along fencerows, section lines, roadsides, and railroad right-of-ways. Vegetation in these situations is often composed of native prairie grasses and forbs in combination with many coarse, introduced weeds including species of grass and forbs that are characteristic of sites with disturbed soils. Occasional native trees or shrubs also are present.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

Primary intraneous species: Secondary intraneous species: Extraneous species (including well-marked subspecies):

Shelterbelts and Tree Claims

On many farms throughout the state, trees and shrubs are planted in long narrow strips. These are commonly referred to as shelterbelts or wind breaks. They are designed to protect farmsteads from the severe winds during the winter months and to impede drifting snow so that large drifts will form, thus assuring more moisture for cropland fields during the critical growing season. A considerable variety of native and exotic trees and shrubs are characteristic of these plantings. Some of the more common species include Black Hills spruce, ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain cedar, golden willow, American elm, Chinese elm, wild plum, caragana, box elder, bullberry, Russian olive, lilac, and green ash.

In eastern North Dakota, particularly in the Agassiz Lake Plain Region and in the eastern portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, small blocks of established mature trees are fairly common. These, referred to as "tree claims", were developed by the early farmers as part of a cooperative program for obtaining free land from the Federal Government. In most tree claims, cottonwood and box elder are the prevalent tree species.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

Primary intraneous species: Secondary intraneous species (including well-marked subspecies): Extraneous species:

Farmsteads

Farmsteads can be considered to represent a community complex that is composed of several distinct environmental niches that are interspersed within a relatively small plot of ground. Typical farmsteads include a farmhouse residence, barns, machine sheds and other out-buildings, grain bins, feed lots, a lawn with ornamental trees and shrubs, and garden plots. Farmsteads vary greatly in size, usually ranging from about 1 to approximately 10 acres.

Characteristic Breeding Birds

Primary intraneous species: Secondary intraneous species (including well-marked subspecies): Extraneous species:
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