Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Common throughout range.
HABITAT: Prefers wetlands on rolling tallgrass prairie but is also found in mixed shortgrass prairie and boreal and deciduous forests. More of a shoreline inhabitant than one of open water, prefers calm water or sluggish currents to fast water. Uses rocks protruding above water, muskrat houses, trunks or limbs of fallen trees, or bare stretches of shoreline or mudflats as resting sites. Winters on shallow inland freshwater marshes and on brackish and saltwater marshes.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Marshes, sloughs, ponds, lakes, and sluggish streams.
NEST: Builds nests on dry ground in dense grassy sites such as bluegrass, hayfields, and sedge meadows, where the vegetation ranges from 8 to 24 inches high at the onset of nesting, or under bushes, usually within several hundred yards of open water; occasionally on a sedge tussock or muskrat house, in slough grass, or in alfalfa fields. In good habitat nests communally.
FOOD: Prefers to feed on mud flats, in fields, or in shallow water where there is floating and shallowly submerged vegetation plus abundant small aquatic animal life. Consumes a diet that is 70 percent vegetative, consisting of seeds of sedges; grasses, pondweeds, and smartweeds; stems and leaves of aquatic plants; and snails, mollusks, crustaceans, and insects.
REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Bennet 1938, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1975b, Palmer 1976a.