This IBA extends from Montevideo in Chippewa County along the Minnesota River northwest through Lac Qui Parle Lake, Marsh Lake, Big Stone Lake, Lake Traverse, and Mud Lake. It extends to the east to include almost all of Big Stone County and the south-west portion of Traverse County. Included within this IBA are; Lac Qui Parle WMA, Chippewa Prairie WMA, Big Stone NWR, Big Stone Lake State Park, Lac Qui Parle State Park, and Bonanza Prairie SNA.
The habitat is a diverse mixture of lakes, prairie potholes, prairie grasslands, river bottom lakes, riparian woodlands, cattail marshes, rocky pastures and cropland. This IBA includes large waterbird nesting areas and some of the highest quality tallgrass prairie in the Midwest.
The area can be reached from State Highways 59, 7 and 75 on the east, west and north plus the south on Highway 75. County roads access the area from all directions the full length of the total IBA.
This IBA contains a very diverse number of habitats including; prairie grasslands (both virgin and restored), floodplain deciduous forests and their riparian habitats, a wide variety of marshes, several very large lakes plus numerous smaller bodies of water such as prairie potholes. This has resulted in a rich diversity of species including some of Minnesota?s largest concentrations of Canada Geese and other waterfowl, the world?s largest American White Pelican breeding colony (2006) along with other waterbirds, shorebirds and grassland songbirds. This diverse wildlife habitat is surrounded by some of the best, and as a result, the most intensely farmed areas in the upper Midwest. The area is recognized as one of the top ranked birding areas in the State of Minnesota and also attracts waterfowl and upland game hunters and other outdoor recreation users
MN ? 1a (Waterfowl Concentrations): Lac Qui Parle Lake has the largest concentrations of migrating and wintering Canada Geese in the state. Over a half million Canada Geese use this area as a regular fall migration stopover point. In the past 5 years up to 111,000 Canada Geese have been recorded wintering. The Canada Geese are accompanied by smaller flocks of Snow, Cackling and White-fronted Geese with an occasional Ross?s Goose present. Big Stone Lake is a concentration point for many different species of waterfowl, both puddle and diving ducks. An example of this was the presence of an estimated 50,000 Lesser Scaup on the lake on April 12, 2004 during a bird survey being conducted at Big Stone Lake State Park. Large concentrations of Northern Shovelers are also encountered on the lake.
MN ? 1b (Shorebird Concentrations): Since 2003, between 22,000 and 108,000 shorebirds have been counted on this IBA. There are many areas where shorebirds congregate when water conditions are conducive to their use. Major points include Big Stone NWR especially when Pool water levels are controlled. The prairie pothole country of central Big Stone County and Mud Lake in Traverse County are also concentration points for shorebirds. Thousands of shorebirds migrate through this area in both spring and fall with July and August being especially good months for large numbers of birds. Numbers, of course, fluctuate from year to year and place to place depending on water conditions and water control at Big Stone NWR. Over 75,000 individual shorebirds were counted in this area in 2004. The first documented Snowy Plover nesting in Minnesota was recorded at Big Stone NWR in 2006.
MN ? 1c (Waterbird Concentrations): Marsh Lake (Pelican Island) contains the largest breeding colony of American White Pelicans in the state (in 2006 this was the largest colony in the world). The colony has increased on a yearly basis to a high of 15,000 breeding pairs in 2000. Along with the pelicans there are significant numbers of breeding Ring-billed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Pied-billed Grebes, and Forster?s Terns.
MN ? 1e (Species Diversity): Over 200 species of birds are recorded on an annual basis at Big Stone NWR, Lac Qui Parle WMA, Lac Qui Parle State Park and Big Stone State Park. Shorebird surveys (P. Chu, P. Svingden, K. Borden) have recorded 32 species.
MN ? 2a: Species of Special Concern.
The following species are found breeding within this IBA; American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Forster?s Tern. Bald Eagles are also found in significant numbers during migration.
MN ? 2b: Species of Conservation Concern.
These species are found in significant numbers; Lesser Scaup, Upland Sandpiper,
MN ? 3b: Sites of rare or threatened habitat.
Some of the states best Native Prairie and grasslands occur within this IBA. Grassland associated birds found here include: Northern Harrier, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Eastern Kingbird, Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Henslow?s Sparrow, LeConte?s Sparrow, Bobolink, Western Meadowlark, Brewer?s Blackbird.
MN ? 4a Long-term research and monitoring:
?Long term monitoring and banding at the Marsh Lake Pelican colony
?Waterbird Monitoring by DNR staff at Lac Qui Parle WMA
?Shorebird monitoring by MOU members Peder Svingen, Karl Bardon and Phillip Chu for MOU files and St. John?s University
?Updating of the State Park lists by DNR State Parks
A serious threat is the drainage of wetlands through agricultural expansion in the prairie
pothole country of Big Stone County. Mining of granite especially in the Big Stone NWR area
is disturbing valuable grasslands. Leafy splurge, a non-native invasive is a threat in this area.
The upgrade of the Big Stone 2 power plant and the increase in power lines to serve this plant
are threat to habitats in Stevens County.