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State of the Birds Report

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Prairie Wetlands

Northern Pintail by Gregory Lis

Though wetland birds are doing well overall, Black Tern and Northern Pintail are two species with significant declining trends. These birds depend on ephemeral prairie wetlands—those wet spots on the prairie that fill with snowmelt and seasonal rains.

The Prairie Pothole Region of the Upper Midwest is a great cluster of these temporary wetlands. Declining Northern Pintail populations mirror the continuing drainage of ephemeral wetlands in this region. Ephemeral prairie wetlands are among the most threatened wetland ecosystems, as they are largely not protected by the Clean Water Act. From 1997 to 2009, total wetland area in the PPR declined by 74,340 acres.

A provision in the 2014 Farm Bill, called conservation compliance, discourages the drainage and conversion of ephemeral wetlands. The USFWS is directing Duck Stamp revenue toward protecting these vital wetlands and surrounding prairies.


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