Important Bird Areas

Bluestem Prairie-Buffalo River State Park IBA

Minnesota

The Bluestem Prairie and Buffalo River State Park constitute one of the largest continuous, undisturbed grasslands in Minnesota. This site consists of over 10,000 acres of native and restored prairie. It has been designated as one of the highest quality prairie sites in the United States.

Included within this IBA are the Buffalo River State Park, the Magnusson Wildlife Management Area and the Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area all managed by the Minnesota DNR. The Nature Conservancy owns and manages the Margherita Preserve ? Audubon Prairie, and three other parcels. Located adjacent to Buffalo River State Park is Moorhead State University Regional Science Center. The Science Center?s Buffalo River Bird Monitoring Station is located within the park boundary. Bird banding studies have been in process at this station since 2000. These studies provide an excellent documentation on the birdlife of this site.

The Bluestem Prairie ? Buffalo River State Park complex is located east of Moorhead, Minnesota just south of U. S. Highway 10, it is bounded on the west by Minnesota State Highway 9, on the east by Clay County Road 23 and on the south by Clay County Road 10.

The Bluestem Prairie and Buffalo River State Park constitute one of the largest continuous, undisturbed grasslands in Minnesota. This site consists of over 10,000 acres of native and restored prairie. It has been designated as one of the highest quality prairie sites in the United States.

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Ornithological Summary

The combination of the Bluestem Prairie S.N.A and adjacent areas and Buffalo River State Park is one of the largest contiguous native prairie tracts remaining in the State of Minnesota. With the presence of this habitat Greater Prairie-Chickens occur in large numbers, one of the largest concentrations remaining in Minnesota The grasslands at the site also provide prime habitat for other species of grassland birds including Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Short-eared Owl, Western Meadowlark, Bobolink and Northern Harrier. Grassland sparrows including Savannah, Clay-colored, Le Conte?s, Grasshopper, Field and Lark are well represented at this site. Henslow?s Sparrow?s are found sporadically especially at Buffalo River State Park The Loggerhead Shrike, a Minnesota species on the Threatened List, is found regularly in this area.

MN 1e (species diversity) - Well over 200 species of birds occur within this IBA. The Composite List for Buffalo River State Park stands currently at 224 species. A recent (six survey days during 2004-05) bird survey at the Bluestem Scientific and Natural Area, conducted by Jerry Bonkoski and Bob Janssen, recorded 95 species and the Clay County Composite List contains 314 species. Thus this IBA is located in an area of high bird populations and concentrations of individual numbers. Grassland sparrows have been cited as the most rapidly declining group of species in North America. Grassland sparrows and other sparrow species are well represented as breeding species and as migrants.

MN 2a (sites for species conservation concern, Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern) - The Bluestem Prairie ? Buffalo River IBA contains one of the largest remaining concentrations of Greater Prairie-Chickens in the State of Minnesota. Flocks of over 200 birds can be seen during evening roost flights and many can be seen on leks performing their spectacular mating rituals. Lek counts in 2010 found 82 birds (70 males and 12 females) and in 2009 found 80 birds (73 males and 7 females). One of these leks can be found along the west edge of the prairie and is located along a readily accessible road for easy viewing by the public. This is one of the few places, if not the only place in Minnesota where you can view Prairie-Chickens performing without getting out of your car. This site supports populations (both breeding and migratory) of the following species: Henslow?s Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Marbled Godwit, Franklin?s Gull (migrant only), Short-eared Owl.

MN 2b (species of conservation concern) - This site supports breeding populations of the following species of Conservation Concern in Minnesota: American Bittern, Upland Sandpiper, Le Conte?s Sparrow, Dickcissel, Bobolink,

MN 3b (Habitat, Native Prairie) - The Bluestem Prairie ? Buffalo River IBA is a large contiguous area of native prairie in the Red River Valley of Minnesota. The vast majority of this valley is in intense agriculture usage making the IBA very important for bird populations. It is especially significant for breeding populations of rapidly declining grassland birds. The following species occur regularly as breeding and/or as migrants: Northern Harrier, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Wilson?s Phalarope, Short-eared Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Kingbird, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow?s Sparrow, Le Conte?s Sparrow, Bobolink, Western Meadowlark, Brewer?s Blackbird

MN 3b (Habitat, Floodplain Forest, Upland Deciduous Forest) - The following species occur as breeder and/or migrants in the deciduous forests which are located along or near the Buffalo River which flows through the area primarily in Buffalo River State Park: Barred Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager.

MN 4a (Sites for long-term avian research and monitoring) - Buffalo River State Park is a site that will have future update surveys conducted to maintain and keep current the bird list for the park. These surveys will be conducted at regular intervals and will be conducted by qualified observers. The Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) maintains a bird monitoring (banding) station at the MSUM Regional Science Center. This banding and monitoring operation takes place within the boundaries of Buffalo River State Park. The program was begun in 2000 and continues to the present time. The Nature Conservancy maintains a field office on the Bluestem Prairie where monitoring of conditions on the prairie take place.

Conservation Issues

The Bluestem Prairie and Buffalo River State Park constitute one of the largest continuous,
undisturbed grasslands in Minnesota. Invasive plants species can be a problem to a delicate ecosystem such as a native prairie. Pesticide residue in the soil of this IBA has arose due to intenstified farmland management in the near vicinity of the IBA.