Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
ne of the least known of the great birding locations, Kidder County is representative of where east meets west in the Great Plains. There, in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, birders can revel in the open range of Dakota and observe nesting ducks, including one million Blue-winged Teal, other dabbling ducks, Canvasbacks, Redheads and Lesser Scaup, along with shorebirds, raptors and grassland songbirds. See the largest nesting colony of American White Pelicans north of Crystal Springs at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The largest populations of nesting Ferruginous and Swainson's Hawks have been documented in Kidder County, and Burrowing Owls are commonly found where grasslands have been cropped short.
Other prairie nesting birds include an abundance of native sparrows -- Baird's, Grasshopper, LeConte's, Clay-colored and Vesper Sparrows -- plus Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Lark Buntings, Western Meadowlarks, Horned Larks, Bobolinks, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Upland Sandpipers. You will also commonly see American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes, Marbled Godwits, Western and Eared Grebes, Franklin's Gulls and Black Terns among more common species.
Some of the largest fall concentrations of Sandhill Cranes in the nation assemble in the Horsehead and Kunkel Lake area, south of Robinson and north of Dawson and Tappen. Tundra Swans stopover at the abundance of wetlands during migration, especially during fall, as do Snow, White-fronted and Canada Geese, and many ducks, including Canvasbacks. As winter closes in, Snow Buntings become as common as Horned Larks. Watch for Snowy Owls and Rough-legged Hawks.
To get to Kidder County, fly to Bismarck and drive east on Interstate 94. Beyond this thoroughfare, begin exploring the gravel roads north and south of Steele, Dawson, Tappen, Crystal Springs, Tuttle, Robinson and Pettibone. To the east, the Woodworth area is also an exciting birding locale. In the state that boasts the most national wildlife refuges, the Kidder County area is truly an untapped birding treasure, but be sure to explore other areas of the state like the Badlands, where you will surely delight at the grand birding vistas of Teddy Roosevelt's North Dakota. Contact Long Lake NWR (701) 387-4397 and Chase Lake NWR (701) 285-3341.
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