Prairies & Potholes – birding North Dakota

Traveling Trinovids visit the Prairie

Traveling Trinovids visit the Prairie

They call it the Prairies & Potholes Bird & Wildlife Festival, it’s held annually in June in North Dakota and the Traveling Trinovid was there. The area is an expanse of wide open grasslands occasionally dotted with small ponds, lakes and marshes (explaining the festival name).

American Avocet a common Prairie breeding species!

American Avocet – a common “pothole” breeding species!

We’ll begin with the Potholes which are home to water birds like the stunning American Avocet, American White Pelicans, Black Terns, and others. The flashy black & white Avocets perform courtship displays and call wildly with long bills curving skyward. Stately groups of massive American White Pelicans swim shoulder to shoulder herding schools of bait toward the shallow shore!

American Avocet in flight

American Avocet in flight

From the cattail-lined shore, Red-winged & Yellow-headed Blackbirds sing raucous “songs”, drowning out the softer warbling wrens.

Yellow-headed Blackbird male

Yellow-headed Blackbird male

Beautiful waterbirds swim and feed at the cattail edge flashing brilliant hues of ambers, reds and brilliant, sky blue.

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male Ruddy Duck

With tail cocked upwards, richly plumaged Ruddy Ducks display and forage alongside Wilson’s Phalaropes which spin like wind up toys while foraging.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope female

The colorful Phalaropes are an unusual group of shorebirds (or waders for our European friends) that show reverse, sexual dimorphism with females being brighter than males; an odd occurrence in the world of birds!

Black Tern on post

Black Tern on post

As the sun fades to the west we enjoy one last view of a Black Tern washed in golden light over one of the numerous prairie potholes that dot this magnificent landscape! The blackbirds add one final crescendo to their cacophony before turning it over to the frogs and rails on the night shift.