Important Bird Areas

Upper Minnesota River Valley IBA

Minnesota

This IBA consists of the Minnesota River Valley (hereafter the Valley) extending from the City of Le Sueur in the northeast to LacQui Parle Lake on the west (Figure 1). The Minnesota River flows from the western part of Minnesota, along the South Dakota border, to Mankato, in the central part of the state, than northward to the Twin Cities where it joins the Mississippi River. The Minnesota River, a relatively small stream, flows through a very wide valley of two or more miles in width over much of its length. This valley was formed thousands of years ago by the Glacial River Warren flowing out of Glacial Lake Agassiz. This lake covered a huge area of what are now Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba. The valley, at present, contains a continuous band of flood plains, riparian habitat, wooded and grassy hillsides, marshes and swamps. This variety of landscapes provides excellent habitat for a wide variety of bird species. This valley is a natural corridor for numerous migrating birds. What makes the Valley unique, in the area where it is located, is that it is in the midst of some of the most intensely farmed areas in the United States. The seven counties, included in this area, are 80%-90% cultivated farmland.

This IBA contains numerous WMA?s and SNA?s (see Appendix 1) plus four Minnesota State Parks, Fort Ridgely, Flandrau, Minneopa and Upper Sioux Agency. There are also several county parks within the IBA. This IBA can be reached from numerous access and vantage points. There are numerous U. S. and State Highways that parallel the Valley on the north and south. Many county roads provide access and crisscross the IBA in many localities. For detailed information on location and access to this IBA the best resource is ?The Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail? guide.

This IBA is divided in three sections;

1) Le Sueur to just north of Mankato (34, 238 acres) (Figure 2)
2) west of Mankato to Morton (76,892 acres) (Figure 3-5) and,
3) the last section from Morton to Montevideo.

Situated just to the north of this IBA is the Lower Minnesota River Valley IBA and to the west the Big Stone ? Marsh Lake ? Lac Qui Parle IBA.

Ornithological Summary

The Upper Minnesota River Valley IBA contains significant bird habitat in an intensely agriculture area. Well over 200 species occur normally during spring, summer and fall in many localities in the Valley. Mono-cultures of corn and soybean extend for hundreds of miles in all directions from the boundaries of this IBA. In such an intensely farmed area the river valley corridor provides the only prime bird habitat in this part of Minnesota. The river valley is also a natural corridor for migrating birds such as waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and passerine species such as warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers and sparrows.
The valley, at present, contains a continuous band of flood plains, riparian habitat, wooded and grassy hillsides, marshes and swamps. This variety of landscapes provides excellent habitat for a wide variety of bird species. This valley is a natural corridor for numerous migrating birds. The Minnesota River Valley floodplain is subjected to intermittent major flooding. When these floods occur, usually after heavy winter snowfall and heavy spring rains, large numbers of waterfowl concentrate in the valley. Numerous ducks, such as Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Northern Shovelers, Canvasbacks, Canada Geese and Tundra Swans use the Valley as a migration resting and feeding area. Numbers of waterfowl for this entire IBA will be in excess of 50,000 during years of major spring (April) flooding. Great Blue Heron colonies are found at the Le Seuer Sewage Ponds, and Judson. The portions of this IBA that go through Renville, Redwood, and Yellow Medicine contain significant number of breeding Lark Sparrows. This species has three very disjunct populations in Minnesota; southeast corner of the state, the Red River Valley, and this population in the Minnesota River Valley.Bald Eagles migrate and nest commonly in the Valley. American White Pelicans use the Valley as a regular migration resting and feeding area. While no pelicans breed in the Valley a large number of non-breeders use the valley in the summer. Henslow?s Sparrows have been recorded in a number of localities within this IBA. The Louisiana Waterthrush is intermittent in its occurrence at Minneopa State Park. Prothonotary Warblers occur on the floodplain of the river as far upstream as New Ulm. Cerulean Warblers are found sporadically within the Valley including Seven-Mile Creek County Park and Renville County Parks. The following species occur in significant numbers primarily as migrants in the Valley:
Northern Pintail
Canvasback
Lesser Scaup
American Woodcock
Prothonotary Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
The following species occur as both migrants and breeders:
Black-billed Cuckoo
Whip-poor-will (mainly in Renville County Parks)
Bell?s Vireo (Minneopa State Park)
Wood Thrush
Dickcissel
Bobolink
The four State Parks will have continuing monitoring of their bird populations and bird lists. During 2006-2007 bird surveys will commence on a number of the SNA?s (Chamberlain Woods, Ottawa Prairie, Kasota Prairie) within the Valley.

Conservation Issues

Agricultural intensification in areas surrounding the IBA, including drainage, use of pesticides.