The Turtle Mountains is an elevated area located in north central North Dakota and southwest Manitoba that rises up to 400 feet from the surrounding countryside.

Ornithological Summary

This nomination is based on recent Turtle Mountains Breeding Bird Surveys, which sometimes found more than 90 species on the route. When considering North Dakota's breeding aviifauna, nesting species that are largely located within the Turtle Mountains include Red-necked Grebe, Common Loon, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruffed Grouse, Broad-winged Hawk, Alder Flycatcher, and Mourning Warbler. Exceptional counts are typically made for species such as Ring-necked Duck, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Veery,  Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Northern Waterthrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, and Brewer's Blackbird.

The route of the Turtle Mountains Breeding Survey does not adequately survey the dry, scrubby oak forest on the south and west flanks of the mountains. It is in this habitat that additional species are found including Chestnut-sided Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Lark Sparrow, and Indigo Bunting.

Additional information on the primary and secondary intraneous breeding species of the Turtle Mountain deciduous forest are found in Stewart, Breeding Birds of North Dakota, 1975, p. 32. Stewart considers the primary species to be: Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Least Flycatcher, Common Crow, Veery, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Species that recently have been found to nest in the Turtle Mountains include Pileated Woodpecker, Common Raven, Alder Flycatcher (split from "Traill's Flycatcher) and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Although quite rare, the Turtle Mountains is the best place in North Dakota to find Philadelphia Vireo in the breeding season and is one of the few sites for breeding Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Eastern Towhee. Towhees on the western side of the Turtle Mountains closely resemble Eastern Towhees in plumage, but include vocalizations that are Spotted Towhee in nature; thus indicating that this is a zone of hybridization.

Conservation Issues

The main threats are to species with woodland and water affinities. These include deforestation, pollution, and residential development. Over time, unprotected woodlands are in danger of being cleared and converted to agricultural land.


Public lands include Lake Metigoshe State Park, School Section Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Willow Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Wakopa Game Management Area, and International Peace Gardens. Private ownership includes farms and woodlands, year-round residences, and vacation homes.


The Turtle Mountains is an undulating landscape covered by glacial drift. Annual precipitation is sufficient&nbsp;to support a natural cover of trees and shrubs. The understory is dominated by serviceberry and alder. Wetlands are abundant and range&nbsp;from deep lakes to very shallow wetlands.&nbsp;Higher south-facing exposures tend to be covered by&nbsp;burr oak and ash. Aspen dominates the higher ground. Over time, considerable woodland has been cleared for pasture and haying. Reference: <a href="">http://www.n...

Land Use

The Turtle Mountains is a mosaic of woodlands, wetlands and agricultural lands. The uses of agricultural lands include grazing, haying, small grains, and row crops. Woodlands are used for hunting, hiking, and birding as well as extraction of timber projects.&nbsp;Some of the larger lakes are ringed with cabins and homes, and the lakes are used for boating and other water activities, and fishing.&nbsp;

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