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Wildlife Notes

Bluegill under water

Bluegill Spawn

Bluegill spawn late May and June when water temperatures near 22 C (71.6F). Large males build nests in colonies where they spawn and protect eggs. Some smaller males will mimic females to fertilize eggs instead of nest building and defense.

Yucca moth

Yucca Moths

Did you know that yucca moths are the yucca plant's only pollinator? Learn more here!

Eastern kingbird

Eastern Kingbird and Chitin Pellets

Eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus), which can be found across North Dakota in the summer, feed primarily on insects during the breeding season. Like owls and some other birds, eastern kingbirds regurgitate pellets of indigestible prey parts, in this case insect chitin. Here is a series of photographs demonstrating this behavior (because we knew everyone would appreciate this visual to start your day out right!)

Tick waving front legs looking for dinner


Ticks sit on the tips of vegetation with legs outstretched waiting for dinner to wander by. Learn more about one of North Dakota's least favorite insects here.

Black terns displaying fish flight courting

Black Tern Fish Flight

Black terns (Chlidonias niger) can be found across North Dakota during their breeding season. These birds do a courtship display called a Fish Flight. During a Fish Flight a male tern will catch and carry a fish or other larger food item in an attempt to attract a female. If he finds an interested female, he’ll feed her the item.
Coot chick with pare t

American Coots in North Dakota

American coots are a fairly common water bird in North Dakota. Check out this short video to learn more.

Richardson's ground squirrel

North Dakota Ground Squirrels

So is that ground squirrel you see in the North Dakota countryside a Flickertail or a Franklin's?

Wild turkey

Wild Turkey in North Dakota

Wild turkey, a popular upland game species in North Dakota, are not native to the state. Learn more in this Wildlife Notes post.

Ten-Petal Blazing Star

Ten-Petal Blazing Star

If you want to see one of the state’s most impressive wildflowers in full bloom, you need to know not only where to look, but when.

Weasel with white winter coat

Winter Camouflage

Did you know that North Dakota's two hare (white-tailed jackrabbits and snowshoe hares) and three weasel (long-tailed, short-tailed and least) species turn white in the winter.

Moose with bad case of winter ticks

Winter Ticks and Moose

Stories about ghost moose are being told with increased frequency across the southern portion of moose range in North America. Winter ticks are the cause.

Killdeer chicks

Newly Hatched Killdeer Chicks

Newly hatched killdeer chicks, while not the most graceful of creatures, are arguably one of the most adorable. These chicks were filmed in a gravel area right outside of one of the Department's offices.

Bison in badlands

Bison in North Dakota

Watch this short video for some facts on bison in North Dakota.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtles are common throughout North Dakota. These big turtles can live 40-50 years or more in the wild and can grow to around 65 pounds (though most are in the 10-35 pound range). 

Porcupine in tree

Porcupine Fur

Did you know that porcupines have three types of fur? Learn more in this Wildlife Note post.

Dirt Tube

Dirt Tubes

Have you ever been driving down a back road during the spring and seen tubes of dirt meandering along a ditch? These tubes are created by northern pocket gophers.

Sagebrush lizard

Sagebrush Lizards Escape Mechanism

Did you know that sagebrush lizards (found in the North Dakota badlands) can drop their tail to distract an attacking predator? They escape while the predator goes after their still twitching tail. Later their tail grows back.

Spotted towhee

Spring in North Dakota

Sights and sounds of spring advancing across our North Dakota

Sharp-tailed grouse

Sharp-Tailed Grouse and Snow Caves

One strategy sharp-tailed grouse use to survive winter is to burrow into the snow. Find out more in this post.

Plains gartersnake

Plains Gartersnake

Plains gartersnakes can be found across North Dakota and can be identified by three stripes, with the middle stripe often being bright orange or yellow. 

molt stages in black terns


All birds molt - shedding their old, weathered feathers with new ones. Some birds molt once per year, others two or three times per year. Sometimes the molt process is simultaneous, such as with waterfowl when they lose all of the primary feathers at once, leaving them flightless for 3-4 weeks. You’ve probably seen them this time of year in a wetland doing a breast-stroke swim to escape to cover.

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing owls nest underground. Learn more in this Wildlife Notes post.

Canada geese on ice sleeping

The Sandman Goes Wild

For humans, sleeping involves closing their eyes and drifting away into a state of rest for the mind and body. In the safety and warmth of their home, this is typically accomplished in about eight hours. For teenagers, sometimes it takes much longer.

White-tailed deer walking through deep snow

White-Tailed Deer Movements

On the northern Great Plains, seasonal movements of white-tailed deer are highly variable. Find out more in this Wildlife Notes post.

Sharptail in grass

Sharp-tailed Grouse or Fire Bird

To the Lakota, the sharp-tailed grouse was called “Cansiyo” or the “Fire Bird”, because of its need for fire to keep the grasslands open. Learn more about this iconic bird in the Wildlife Notes post.

western prairie fringed orchid

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid

The western prairie fringed orchid is North Dakota's only federally listed plant under the Endangered Species Act.

Mountain lion

Mountain Lion vs. Canine Tracks

How do you tell the difference between mountain lion and coyote tracks? Watch this short video for some tips.

Red-Eyed Vireo on limb

Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-eyed vireos typically sing high in tree canopies in short little bursts of 2-4 syllables, altering back and forth between ascending and descending tones so it sounds like a 90's Valley Girl on the phone saying, "Hello?" "Where are you?" "That's cool" "I'm up here." "Totally."