Effects of land use on nongame wetland birds in Western South Dakota stock ponds, U.S.A

Shawn M. May, David E. Naugle, Kenneth F. Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Tillage agriculture is expanding into western prairie landscapes without knowledge of the effects of land use change on habitats used by nongame wetland birds. In 1999-2000, we surveyed 196 stock ponds within grassland (>95% grass) and cropland (>75% tillage) landscapes to evaluate effects of land use on nongame wetland bird densities in western South Dakota. Land use and wetlands were delineated from Landsat TM imagery and National Wetlands Inventory maps. Sixteen nongame wetland bird species used stock ponds in western South Dakota, of which nine species were obligate wetland-nesting species. Although densities of seven nongame obligate wetland bird species were similar between landscape types, abundance of Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) was greater in grassland study areas where cattle grazing limited growth of thick-stemmed emergent vegetation and reduced overall vegetative cover in stock ponds. In contrast, the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) and Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) were more abundant in cropland landscapes where stock ponds provide abundant over-water nesting habitat (e.g., cattail). If grasslands continue to be converted to cropland, Wilson's Phalarope numbers will likely decrease as blackbird densities increase in stock ponds dominated by monotypic stands of cattail. To circumvent such changes, we recommend that resource managers conserve large tracts of grassland through aggressive easement programs in landscapes at highest risk of agricultural tillage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-55
Number of pages5
Issue numberSPECIAL PUBL.2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Croplands
  • Grasslands
  • Landscape
  • Nongame birds
  • South Dakota
  • Stock ponds
  • Wetlands


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