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Range Expansion of the Pileated Woodpecker in North Dakota

Expansion Beyond the Agassiz Lake Plain


Sightings west of the Agassiz Lake Plain and Pembina Hills still are infrequent (Fig. 4, Table 1). In a breeding bird census of 130 legal quarter-sections in 1967, Stewart and Kantrud (1972) did not record any pileated woodpeckers. Censuses were conducted in townships in all counties along the Red River, in the Turtle Mountains, near Devils Lake, and in the Sheyenne National Grassland. During the 1992 and 1993 breeding seasons, Igl and Johnson (1997) repeated Stewart and Kantrud's 1967 survey. One pileated woodpecker was observed in Pembina County (L. D. Igl, pers. comm.). In northeastern North Dakota, the first pileated woodpecker was documented west of the Agassiz Lake Plain and Pembina Hills in 1985 at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, Benson County (G. B. Berkey, pers. comm.). In southeastern North Dakota, the first pileated woodpecker was documented west of the Agassiz Lake Plain in 1966 at Fort Ransom, Ransom County (G. B. Berkey, pers. comm.).

DATE LOCATION OBSERVER(S) OBSERVATION
number of birds
Turtle Mountains
late 1980's, early 1990's Turtle Mountains Recreational Forest, Bottineau County D. T. Disrud one
1 February 1987 St. John, Rolette County D. L. Kubischta one
26 November 1993 Lake Upsilon, Rolette County H. Klein one
28 May 1994 Dalen Campground, Turtle Mountains, Recreational Forest, Bottineau County R. E. Martin, G. B. Berkey one calling and drumming
1 July 1994 International Peace Garden, Rolette County R. E. Martin, G. B. Berkey old diggings
29 May 1997 Turtle Mountains Wildlife Management Area, Bottineau County K. M. Fleming one
1998-2000 Lake Upsilon, Rolette County A. J. Lagasse year-round sightings of individuals and pairs, four in same tree at same time used a cavity for roosting
13 February 1999 Turtle Mountains Recreational Forest, Bottineau County R. E. Martin, H. C. Talkington, C. D. Ellingson one
1 April 2000 Turtle Mountains Recreational Forest, Bottineau County R. E. Martin, G. B. Berkey fresh diggings, no birds
18 June 2000 International Peace Garden, Rolette County R. E. Martin, C. D. Ellingson one
July 2000  International Peace Garden, Rolette County T. Drozdowski one
Sullys Hill/Devils Lake
8 April 1985 Sullys Hill, Benson County Iru and Ryan (full names unknown) one
10 December 1985 Sullys Hill, Benson County I. Nelson one
22 January 1986 Sullys Hill, Benson County L. Veikley one
23 March 1986 Sullys Hill, Benson County B. P. (full name unknown) one
26 April 1986 Sullys Hill, Benson County F. W. (full name unknown) one
Spring 1986 Sullys Hill, Benson County fide G. B. Berkey one
Winter 1986 Sullys Hill, Benson County fide G. B. Berkey two
Spring 1987 Sullys Hill, Benson County fide G. B. Berkey one
10 April 1988 Sullys Hill, Benson County V. Kurwat one female
20 January 1989 Sullys Hill, Benson County R.A. Hollevoet, G. Huschle one
21 March 1989 Sullys Hill, Benson County S. Kresl, G. Sekaniec, D. Lesischen one
24 May 1990 Sullys Hill, Benson County M. H. Sherfy one
22 July 1990 Devils Lake, Ramsey County fide G. B. Berkey two
29 November 1990 Sullys Hill, Benson County G. Swan one
Summer 1991 Sullys Hill, Benson County S. Kresl  
Summer 1992 Sullys Hill, Benson County S. Kresl  
20 September 1992 south shore of Devils Lake, 4.8 km east of Fort Totten, Benson County R. E. Martin, G. B. Berkey one
Summer 1993 Sullys Hill, Benson County T. LaFrance  
5 October 1995 Camp Grafton, Devils Lake, Ramsey County E. E. Freeberg one
9 October 1995 Sullys Hill, Benson County G. B. Berkey, R. E. Martin one
Spring 2000 Sullys Hill, Benson County fide R. E. Martin one
14 May 2000 Sullys Hill, Benson County D. H. Johnson one, calling
Sheyenne River
R. E. Stewart's reports of sightings occurred sometime between 1950 and 1972 near Kindred, Richland County R. E. Stewart indicated pair
near Sheyenne National Grassland, Richland County R. E. Stewart indicated pair
near Mirror Pool, Sheyenne National Grassland, Richland County R. E. Stewart indicated pair
Mirror Pool, Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County R. E. Stewart indicated pair
near Fort Ransom State Park, Ransom County R. E. Stewart indicated pair
4 August 1966 Fort Ransom, Ransom County fide G. B. Berkey one
30 December 1971 McLeod Christmas Bird Count (CBC), Ransom County   two
23 December 1972 McLeod CBC, Ransom County   one
26 October 1980 south of Lisbon, Ransom County fide G. B. Berkey one
29 December 1980 Richland County fide G. B. Berkey one
29 December 1980 McLeod CBC, Ransom County   two
20 June1984 Olson Wetland, Ransom County R. Nellermoe, R. A. Lambert  
25 June 1984 Sheyenne Springs Research Natural Area, Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County R. Nellermoe, R. A. Lambert evidence of breeding
6 April 1985 Sheyenne River, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey two
4 July 1985 Richland County fide G. B. Berkey four
24 June 1986 Richland County fide G. B. Berkey calling
20 June 1988 south of Fort Ransom, Ransom County fide G. B. Berkey one
1 July 1988 Sheyenne River, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey one
17 July 1988 Sheyenne River, Ransom and Richland counties R. E. Martin, G. B. Berkey 8 individuals calling or drumming/8 linear km
6 December 1988 south of Fort Ransom, Ransom County N. R. Shook one
Summer 1989 Sheyenne River, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey  
17 December 1989 Sheyenne National Grassland, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey one
2 June 1990 Sheyenne River, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey two
30  June 1990 Sheyenne River, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey one
27 May 1991 Mirror Pool, Sheyenne National Grassland, county unknown fide G. B. Berkey one
4 July 1991 south of Leonard, Ransom County fide G. B. Berkey one
5 November 1993 3.2 km south and 9.6 km west of Aneta, Sheyenne River, Griggs County C. Michalski one
April-May 1997 19.2 km south of Valley City, on County Road 21, Barnes County N. N. Doppler one
16 March 1999 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County J. A. Dechant, M. Winter two
16 June 1999 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County D. M. Scheiman one
21 June 1999 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County J. A. Dechant one
October 1999 19.2 km south of Valley City, on County Road 21, Barnes County N. N. Doppler one
30 October 1999 Fish Hatchery, Valley City, Barnes County N. R. Shook two
21 March 2000 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County J. A. Dechant, D. H. Johnson one
Spring 2000 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County S. M. Stahl adult seen in cavity during each of three visits
May 2000 Fish Hatchery, Valley City, Barnes County N. R. Shook one bird at each of two sightings
3 June 2000 near Fort Ransom State Park, Ransom County D. N. Svingen one
3 June 2000 Ransom County D. M. Scheiman one
6 June 2000 Sheyenne National Grassland, Ransom County D. M. Scheiman one
15-16 July 2000 Fish Hatchery, Valley City, Barnes County N. R. Shook one both days
Summer 2000 Sheyenne national Grassland, Ransom County B. R. Stotts at least five seen throughout summer
26 September 2000 Fish Hatchery, Valley City, Barnes County G. A. Knutsen one
30 September 2000 19.2 km south of Valley City, on County Road 21, Barnes County N. N. Doppler one
November 2001 3.2 km south of Valley City, Barnes County D. C. Pederson, G. K. Pederson one
James River
Spring 1985 McElroy Park, Jamestown, Stutsman County J. M. Legge one
Spring 1990 northwest of LaMoure, LaMoure County fide G. B. Berkey  
18 December 1998 Jamestown CBC, Stutsman County J. A. Dechant, P. A. Rabie, D. T. Burchill one female
Missouri River
30 November 1992 Mandan, Morton County P. Y. Carlson two

Turtle Mountains

The Turtle Mountains are heavily forested and dominated by quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) with secondary species of bur oak, green ash, balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) (Stewart 1975). Eleven records of pileated woodpecker activity (three in the nonbreeding season, six in the breeding season, one year-round, one unknown) were reported in the Turtle Mountains. The breeding season was defined as March through August and the nonbreeding season from September through February. In seven of the sightings, one bird was seen during each visit. Excavations of cavities were reported in two records, and calling and drumming were observed in another record. Roosting and the presence of a group of four pileated woodpeckers were reported in one record. The May 1994, May 1997, February 1999, and April 2000 sightings occurred within 6.4 km of one another (R. E. Martin, pers. comm.). The pileated woodpecker might be resident in small numbers in the Turtle Mountains (Berkey 1994b). If so, the westernmost occurrence in North Dakota of resident pileated woodpeckers would be in the Turtle Mountains. The one sighting in Mandan, described below, is not considered to represent a resident population.

Devils Lake Area

The woodland community surrounding Devils Lake is dominated by bur oak, American elm, basswood, green ash, box elder, quaking aspen, balsam poplar, and paper birch (Stewart 1975). Twenty-two records of pileated woodpecker activity (8 in the nonbreeding season, 14 in the breeding season) have been reported in the Devils Lake area. A single bird was seen in each sighting except winter 1986 and July 1990, in which two birds were seen, and in the summers of 1991, 1992, and 1993, when numbers of woodpeckers were not recorded. The pileated woodpecker might be resident in small numbers in the Devils Lake area, as it is found regularly both at Sullys Hill and at Camp Grafton, Ramsey County (Berkey 1994b, Lambeth 1996).

Sheyenne River Valley

The Sheyenne River flows from northcentral to southeastern North Dakota, eventually discharging into the Red River north of Fargo (Fig. 1). Riparian vegetation is dominated by bur oak, hackberry, American elm, basswood, green ash, hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), and quaking aspen (Stewart 1975). Forty-four records of pileated woodpecker activity (13 nonbreeding, 31 breeding) were reported along the Sheyenne River. Stewart (1975) wrote that the species "undoubtedly breeds … in the rich, wooded bottomlands along the Sheyenne River in northwestern Richland County and northeastern Ransom County." Numerous sightings in those counties attest to the likelihood of a breeding population. Most records of pileated woodpecker along the Sheyenne River Valley occurred within or near (within 16 km) the Sheyenne National Grassland in Richland and Ransom counties, and most observations in the Sheyenne National Grassland were near the Mirror Pool Wildlife Management Area. In addition to the sightings listed in Table 1 Bryan R. Stotts (U.S. Forest Service, Lisbon, North Dakota, pers. comm.) reported intermittently seeing family groups in the Mirror Pool area since the late 1990's.

The five northernmost records within the Sheyenne River Valley occurred in Griggs (Lambeth 1994) and Barnes counties (Ellingson 2000; N. R. Shook, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Valley City, North Dakota, pers. comm.). Five records exist from Fort Ransom, located on the Sheyenne River about 30 km west of the Agassiz Lake Plain. The counties in which seven records originated are unknown.

James River Valley

The James River flows south of, and roughly parallel to, the Sheyenne River but enters South Dakota in Dickey County. Riparian vegetation is dominated by American elm, green ash, and box elder (Stewart 1975). Three records (one in the nonbreeding season, two in the breeding season) of pileated woodpecker activity along the James River have been reported, two in or near Jamestown, Stutsman County, and one in LaMoure, LaMoure County.

Missouri River Valley

The Missouri River flows from northwestern to southcentral North Dakota and riparian vegetation is dominated by cottonwood (Populus deltoides) (Stewart 1975). The only sighting of the pileated woodpecker along the Missouri River occurred in Mandan, Morton County, where in November 1992, P. Y. Carlson observed a pair (Berkey 1993b).

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