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Eastern South Dakota Wetlands

JPG-Yellow-headed blackbird's habitat in the wetlands.
Yellow-headed blackbird
JPG-Pheasants nesting in the wetland habitat.
Wetlands, important winter habitat for resident wildlife

Wetlands and Wildlife

When explorers and settlers first crossed the wet prairies of eastern South Dakota they were greeted by clouds of waterfowl that had depended on the region for breeding and migration for more than 10,000 years.
The most productive duck nesting grounds of all - an area that often produced twenty or more broods to the square mile - were the glaciated grasslands of the northern Great Plains, studded with potholes, sloughs, and shallow marshes that made ideal habitat for mallards, pintails, canvasbacks, and other ducks of more than a dozen species....The spring and autumn migrations of the waterfowl were awe-inspiring sites to the first explorers who saw them. From the....prairie sloughs and potholes still unseen by white men, swans, geese and ducks... streamed southward each fall to concentrate by the millions on the bays, marshes, and rivers of the South. (5)

Despite extensive wetland drainage and loss of upland nesting cover, the prairie pothole region of eastern South Dakota remains one of the most productive waterfowl breeding areas of North America. It is the combination of small and shallow wetlands with larger and deeper wetlands that makes eastern South Dakota so attractive to breeding ducks.

JPG-Western grebes in semipermanent wetlands.
Western grebes nest on floating platforms in large semipermanent wetlands
JPG-Wetlands are important food sources.
Blue-winged teal feed on invertebrates in shallow wetlands

Temporary and seasonal wetlands, most less than half an acre in size, thaw quickly in the spring. Pairs of dabbling ducks -- species such as mallards, pintails, and blue-winged teal -- will seek seclusion from other members of their species when they are preparing to nest. They find this privacy on small wetlands. These small wetlands also provide a rich source of aquatic insects, snails, and other invertebrates. Hens need this protein-and calcium-rich food to produce eggs.

A series of wet years on the prairies, when small, shallow wetlands hold water throughout the breeding season, can result in continental duck population explosions.

Deeper wetlands, that thaw later and hold water throughout the summer in most years, attract different ducks. These deeper wetlands provide breeding habitat for diving ducks such as canvasbacks and redheads.

Later in the season, many dabbling ducks will lead their broods to these deeper wetlands. And in the fall, migrating ducks and geese interrupt their southward journey to rest and feed on these wetlands, making eastern South Dakota a waterfowl management area of international importance and a paradise for waterfowl hunters.

Besides ducks, over 100 fish, 80 bird, 25 mammal, 17 amphibian, and 10 reptile species depend on eastern South Dakota wetlands. Some upland wildlife, such as ring-necked pheasants and white-tailed deer, use wetlands during the winter to survive prolonged cold and blizzards. Winter wind velocities in wetlands may be 95% less than in nearby shelter-belts, making wetlands valuable winter cover for many resident wildlife species.

JPG-Turtles, inhabitants of some wetlands.
Over 220 species of fish and wildlife, like these western painted turtles, inhabit eastern South Dakota wetlands
JPG-Insects living in the wetlands.
Damsel flies
JPG-Another important member of the wetland community.
Muskrats create openings in wetland vegetation that benefit other wildlife
GIF-One of the amphibians living in the wetlands.
Leopard frog

Wetlands provide a habitat for more than 200 species of wildlife that live in or migrate through eastern South Dakota. Some species are listed below (a number in ( ) indicates the number of species or subspecies).

Wood duck
Hooded merganser
White-fronted goose
Eared grebe
Black-crowned night heron
Great egret
Least bittern
Sandhill crane
Black tern
Ring-billed gull
Black-bellied plover
Greater yellowlegs
Marbled godwit
Common snipe
Least sandpiper
Pectoral sandpiper
Stilt sandpiper
Red-necked phalarope
Double-crested cormorant
Bank swallow
Common yellowthroat
Ring-necked duck
Common merganser
Snow goose
Northern harrier
Red-necked grebe
Little blue heron
Yellow-crowned night heron
Whooping crane
Common tern
Franklin's gull
Semipalmated plover
Solitary sandpiper
Hudsonian godwit
White-rumped sandpiper
Short-billed dowitcher
Marsh wren
Red-winged blackbird
Le Conte's sparrow
Savannah sparrow
Rough-winged swallow
Blue-winged teal
Lesser scaup
Common goldeneye
Canada goose (4)
Ross's goose
Bald eagle
Western grebe
Cattle egret
Green-backed heron
White-faced ibis
Virginia rail
Least tern
Caspian tern
Bonaparte's gull
Piping plover
Spotted sandpiper
American avocet
Semipalmated sandpiper
Long-billed dowitcher
Sedge wren
Yellow-headed blackbird
Swamp sparrow
Common grackle
Green-winged teal
Greater scaup
Ruddy duck
Tundra swan
Ring-necked pheasant
Horned grebe
Pied-billed grebe
Snowy egret
Great blue heron
American bittern
American coot
Forster's tern
Herring gull
Lesser yellowlegs
Ruddy turnstone
Western sandpiper
Baird's sandpiper
Spotted sandpiper
Wilson's phalarope
White pelican
Belted kingfisher
Willow flycatcher
White-tailed deer
Least weasel
Masked shrew
Southern bog lemming
Meadow jumping mouse
White-footed mouse
Stripped skunk
Pygmy shrew
Western harvest mouse
Deer mouse
Red fox
Arctic shrew
Medow vole
Southern red-backed vole
Long-tailed weasel
Short-tailed shrew
Water shrew
Prairie vole
Grasshopper mouse
Reptiles and Amphibians
Western painted turtle
Plains spadefoot toad
Chorus frog (2)
Tiger salamander (3)
Snapping turtle
Softshell turtle (2)
Canadian toad
Great Plains toad
Leopard frog (2)
False map turtle
Garter snake (3)
American toad
Cricket frog
Wood frog
Blanding's turtle
Northern water snake
Woodhouse's toad
Gray tree frog
Sturgeon (2)
Herring (2)
Brassy minnow
Suckermouth minnow
Buffalo (3)
Black bullhead
White bass
Black crappie
Chinook salmon
Rainbow smelt
Central mudminnow
Gizzard shad
Carp (3)
Plains minnow
Bluntnose minnow
River carpsucker
Shorthead redhorse
Yellow bullhead
Tadpole madtom
Banded killifish
Rock bass
Smallmouth bass
Darters (3)
Yellow perch
Brown trout
Northern Pike
Gar (2)
European rudd
Chubs (6)
Fathead minnow
Northern hog sucker
Brown bullhead
Flathead catfish
Plains topminnow
Green sunfish
Largemouth bass
Freshwater drum
Rainbow trout
American eel
West silvery minnow
Shiners (13)
Dace (4)
Suckers (3)
Blue catfish
Channel catfish
Brook stickleback
Orangespotted sunfish
White crappie
Coho salmon
Lake whitefish
Grass pickerel
Endangered and Threatened Species
Piping plover
Whooping crane
Least tern
Blanding's turtle
False map turtle
Bald eagle
Topeka shiner

JPG-Even cropland wetlands are important to wildlife.
Canada geese and other wildlife use wetlands in cropland
JPG-Photograph of mallard ducks in fight
Mallards, the most abundant duck species in the prairie pothole region

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