A new bird sanctuary will open in northwest Iowa early next month.
The DNR says the Waterman Prairie Wildlife Management Area in O’Brien County, along with part of the Little Sioux River watershed, will become a Bird Conservation Area on March seventh.
DNR wildlife diversity biologist Bruce Ehresman says it’s already a bird haven, with many thriving flocks. “So far, we’ve documented 253 different species of birds. A little over half of those are migrants, at least 108 are birds that have nested there at one time or another.”
The Waterman Prairie encompasses about 68-thousand acres of land, with nearly a third of it grassland. That’s vital habitat for feathered friends, many of which are endangered or threatened species — like the northern harrier, which has been spotted in the vicinity. “The reason we’re doing this is because over time, we’re probably going to lose more species from the state that once nested here,” Ehresman says, “and we’re trying to make an effort to keep those around.”
The list includes the upland sandpiper, bobolink, ring-necked pheasant, American woodcock and red-headed woodpecker, while the area is also a stopover habitat for many other bird species suffering nationwide declines.
The new Bird Conservation Area is one of Iowa’s most important grassland and savanna-rich habitats, he says, and it includes special areas like the Bertram Reservation, Buena Vista County Conservation Park, and Wittrock Indian Village State Preserve and National Historic Landmark.