Important Bird Areas

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge IBA


Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Important Bird Area is located in Becker County, in NW Minnesota, 55 miles E. of Fargo, North Dakota, and 18 miles NE of Detroit Lakes, MN. This IBA is predominantly based on the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge boundary and also includes 3 Wildlife Management Areas immediately south of the refuge.

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge ? USFWS (42,738 acres). The Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 and half of the refuge lies within the original White Earth Indian Reservation boundary. Tribal members retain hunting, trapping, fishing, leeching and rice gathering privileges, some of which are administered by a lottery. Historically, the refuge was used for hunting, fishing, ricing, sugaring and forest resources. Approximately 60% of the refuge is forested, while 35% of the refuge is comprised of wetlands. The Tamarac Comprehensive Conservation Plan (2010) emphasizes ?management of habitats in the context of providing migratory birds benefits while emphasizing restoration of historic vegetation patterns and processes". The refuge gets 60,000 visitors annually.

Wildlife Management Areas ? MN DNR (3,849 acres).
Pickerel WMA is 321 acres of hilly and rugged terrain with small keyhole lakes and wetlands scattered throughout the red oak/aspen forest. This WMA is open to hunting, hiking, and wildlife watching.
Hubble Pond WMA is 3,421 acres and has a diversity of habitat types including hardwood forests, lowland brush, wetlands and open fields. Management emphasis is on waterfowl and habitat improvement for upland game. Most of the WMA is open to hunting, trapping, wildlife watching and hiking although a portion of the area is designated as a wildlife refuge where use is restricted.
Shelly Island WMA is a 107 acre island located in Cotton Lake and provides excellent habitat to a wide variety of songbirds, gulls, loons, bald eagles, terns, and a great blue heron colony. This WMA is being preserved in its natural state for enjoyment, study, and historical values.

This IBA is in the forest/hardwood transition zone, with the majority located in the Laurentian Mixed Forest province; a small portion in the west edge is located in the E. Broadleaf Forest subsection. The topography consists of rolling forested hills interspersed with several small lakes, marshes, bogs and shrub swamps. The Egg, Buffalo, and Otter Tail Rivers originate in or flow through this IBA. Upland forested habitats are varied, ranging from mature northern hardwoods, to young aspen forests, lowland conifer swamps, upland coniferous forests, small wetland meadows, and mixed forests. The large red and white pine that historically dominated the area was originally logged in 1890-1922, and a large portion of the secondary aspen re-growth was cut in from the mid 1980?s to 2000, resulting in a large amount of mid-aged aspen.

242 species of birds have been recorded within the boundaries of the IBA (258 including 16 accidental); 150 have breeding records. This IBA is known for supporting a wide variety of waterfowl and in1987, the refuge served as a nucleus for release of Trumpeter Swans. Currently 45 pairs breed on the refuge, with an average of 100 cygnets produced annually. The refuge was originally established to provide habitat for nesting waterfowl species, primarily the Mallard, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, and Ring-necked Duck. In 2007, Tamarac NWR partnered with the Minnesota DNR to relate the distribution and welfare of a local population of ducks to the pattern of refuges existing in north-central Minnesota through a radio-telemetry research project. Understanding factors influencing the distribution of locally raised Ring-necked Ducks in the fall provided valuable insights into the distribution of refuges required to meet management objectives for this species in Minnesota.

Private lands comprising 7,700 acres make up the remaining portion of the IBA.

Ornithological Summary

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Important Bird Area has relatively high bird diversity; 242 (plus 16 accidental) species have been recorded on the National Wildlife Refuge, 150 of them nesting. The site is important for nesting waterbirds including Black Terns, Great Blue Herons, Forster?s Terns and Red-necked Grebes. Nine species of conservation concern nest on the refuge in significant numbers including Bald Eagles (30 territories), Trumpeters Swans (45 pairs), American Woodcock (241 individuals, 25 + nests), and Golden-winged Warblers (1,000 - 2,000 nesting pairs).

MN1c - Significant Numbers of Waterbirds - The site regularly supports a minimum of 125 pairs of Black Terns, 120 pairs of Great Blue Herons, 50 pairs of Forster?s Terns, and 25 pairs of Red-necked Grebes

MN1e - Significant Species Diversity ? 242 bird species have been recorded on Tamarack IBA including 150 nesting species, 37 of which are Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

MN2a - Endangered, threatened or species of special concern- Five State-listed species are known to occur at Tamarac in ?significant? numbers: 45 pairs of Trumpeter Swans (state threatened) which produce > 100 cygnets annually, Bald Eagle (30 nests), Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow Rail and Forster?s Tern with approximately 50 pairs each (all state species of special concern).

MN2b - Species of conservation concern- Four species meet the threshold of 25 or more breeding pairs: American Woodcock, Black-blled Cuckoo, Black Tern and Golden-winged Warbler

MN3b - Rare habitat assemblages:
The refuge supports a large contiguous acreage of upland deciduous forest, and the following species, accounting for 21/34 species listed for this habitat type, are known to be present in these forest habitats on the refuge in significant numbers.

MN4 - Long-term research, monitoring or urban value

In 1987 Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) was one of the original sites used for the Trumpeter Swan reintroduction program. Since that time the population has grown into to a sustainable flock of more than 2,000 individuals statewide. There are a number of common loons on the refuge as well, and since 1993, the refuge has been one of six index areas included in the DNR Nongame Program?s MN loon monitoring project.

Tamarac NWR has also been designated as ?joint? demonstration areas for Golden-winged Warbler and American Woodcock as it has significant breeding numbers of both species. Extensive research on these two species has occurred on Tamarac NWR from 2006-2012, with numerous papers being prepared for publication. Both are Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the Golden-winged Warbler is considered a Minnesota Stewardship Species with more than 40% of the global population breeding in the state.

Conservation Issues

The largest threat within the refuge is invasive species. Invasive worms are a problem particularly in the Northern Hardwood stands. Likewise, invasive plant species, such as spotted knapweed, are currently being controlled on the refuge but pose continued threats to the native plant communities. Invasive animals such as the zebra mussel, found in nearby Rose Lake, are a future possibility in the lakes on the refuge, and continued monitoring is essential.

Other threats include pressures from outside of the refuge boundaries such as deforestation and changes in habitat due to increased development which is typically accompanied by the introduction of invasive species, natural pests and disease. Additionally, changes in infrastructure, such as wind turbines and cellular towers, pose a potential threat to birds and other wildlife if improperly sited.