Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Iowa State University, Department of Animal Ecology, Ames, IA 50011
In 1850, about 1.6 million of Iowa's 14.4 million hectares were covered with wetlands. Most were drained and by the 1980's, only about 11% of Iowa's wetlands remained. Since 1986, about 900 previously drained wetland basins have been restored, many on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. These wetlands provide valuable nesting and migration habitat for many bird species. The number of breeding bird species found on restored wetlands increased from 4.3/basin in the first year after restoration to 7.2 species/basin the fourth year after restoration. In a second study comparing restored and natural wetlands, the average number of breeding species was 3.9 on 1-year-old restored basins, 7.4 on 4-year-old restored basins, and 7.4 on natural basins. Thus by the fourth year, restored basins and natural wetlands have a similar variety of breeding species. However, several species that were found on natural basins such as least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), sora (Porzana carolina), and Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) were seldom found on restored basins.