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Marshbirds and Shorebirds of North Dakota


Scott Gomes

Eared Grebe on a Nest

State Game and Fish Department
100 North Bismarck Expressway
Bismarck, North Dakota 58501-5095

Wetlands are defined as transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic systems where water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and types of plant growth. Most of North Dakota's wetlands were formed by receding and melting glaciers. The glaciers left pits that filled with water and also gouged trenches into the water table that exposed wet zones. Wetlands are important not only to marshbirds and shorebirds but to all wildlife and people. They provide natural flood control by storing spring run-off, recharge groundwater supplies, and improve water quality by trapping sediments, pollutants, and act in slowing water erosion. North Dakota's prairie wetlands also serve as excellent outdoor classrooms. Teachers can educate children on the intriguing cycles of nature and college students can use the same wetlands for research in biology, medicine, and economics. Wetlands are also valuable to bird watchers, hunters and trappers, artists, photographers, and a multitude of other people who enjoy the recreational activities that wetlands provide.

But when it comes down to it, wildlife is the largest benefactor of wetland values. Wetlands provide breeding, nesting, rearing, feeding, and predator escape cover for all wildlife. North Dakota's wetlands are home to a diverse number of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. During any summer outing, one could observe a variety of animals ranging from deer, hawks, and muskrats to frogs, ducks, and snakes. The list could go on about the benefits of wetlands but the point to remember is that they are not only important to wildlife but to us all.

Most marshbirds and shorebirds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to harm or possess most species. A few species, such as the American coot, sandhill crane, and common snipe, can be hunted in North Dakota. Please contact the Game and Fish Department if you have any questions regarding these species.

This resource is based on the following source:

Gomes, Scott.  No Date.  Marshbirds and shorebirds of North Dakota.  
     North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, ND.  6pp.
This resource should be cited as:
Gomes, Scott.  No Date.  Marshbirds and shorebirds of North Dakota.  
     North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, ND.  Jamestown, 
     ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 16JUL97).

Table of Contents


Herons and Bitterns (Family Ardeidae)

Grebes (Family Podicipedidae)

Cranes (Family Gruidae)

Coots and Rails (Family Rallidae)


Plovers (Family Charadriidae)

Avocets and Stilts (Family Recurvirostridae)

Phalaropes (Family Phalaropodidae)

Gulls and Terns (Family Laridae)

Sandpipers (Family Scolopacidae)


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