April 12: The Central Flyway
North Dakota is smack dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. It covers more than half the landmass of the continental United States and extends into Central and South America. It’s like an interstate highway for migrating birds. Many different species rely on the diverse marshes and wetlands on their spring and fall journeys.
Some birds make their way through North Dakota on the way to their permanent homes. Others get to the state and decide to stay put. North Dakota offers four distinct seasons and a variety of habitats as well as lakes and rivers. The state boasts sixty-three national wildlife refuges, more than any other state. These factors attract a wide variety of birds.
An interest in North Dakota birds is nothing new. In addition to birdwatchers, hunters maintain a close watch on the bird population. On this date in 1922, the Grand Forks Herald informed readers that the bird migration for that spring promised to be very heavy. There were more birds migrating than there had been in ten years. For several days enormous flocks of birds had been flying over. These included geese, ducks, and cranes. A single flock of geese was estimated at two thousand birds. There were also more ducks than anyone had seen in a long time. North Dakota lakes, which in previous years had been dry, were now full to the brim. This would attract water birds and encourage them to stay for the summer.
The North Dakota Tourism Division calls North Dakota a prime destination for birding. The Audubon Society agrees, calling the state one of the most under-rated birding destinations in the country. What makes North Dakota so special? The Audubon Society lists refuges for both grassland and wetland birds; the ease of travel; a lack of crowds; and wide-open spaces. The Birding Society of North Dakota promotes bird watching and fosters the preservation of bird habitat.
Hunters also promote bird habitat. North Dakota gamebirds include the ruffed grouse, the sharp-tailed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, and various waterfowl. Both birdwatchers and hunters are attracted by the wide variety, making the birds of the Central Flyway an important but underrated part of North Dakota’s economy.
Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher
- Grand Forks Herald. “Bird Migration North Said to Be Very Heavy.” Grand Forks ND. 4/12/1922. Page 3.
- Audubon Society. “Birding in North Dakota.” https://www.audubon.org/news/birding-north-dakota Accessed 3/9/2023.
- Audubon Society. “Central Flyway.” https://www.audubon.org/central-flyway Accessed 3/9/2023.
- North Dakota Tourism Division. “Birding in North Dakota.” https://www.ndtourism.com/birding Accessed 3/9/2023.
- North Dakota Birding Society. “North Dakota Birding Society.” https://ndbirdingsociety.org/ Accessed 3/9/2023.
- Ultimate Upland. “Bird Hunting in North Dakota.” https://ultimateupland.com/states/northdakota/ Accessed 3/9/2023.