What is the American Prairie or bison herds in general doing to Northern Pintails?

I live in the wintering grounds of Northern Pintails, my favorite duck, but their population is dropping despite successful wetland conservation on my side of the continent (as shown by rising or stable populations in other waterfowl species). Ducks Unlimited points to a few causes for this, one of which is loss of pothole prairies in their breeding range. In theory, that means that bison (which create pothole prairies by grazing down tall grass and rolling in the dirt, if I understand things correctly) should create good breeding grounds for pintails, which also means, on paper, management by the American Prairie should be causing an uptick in pintail nests on the lands they’re managing.

However, there’s a difference between a theoretical relationship and an actual observed/studied relationship. Despite what seems like an obvious association to me that should be looked into by conversationalists (again, just from reading since I live so far away, maybe it has obvious problems that can only be seen in-person, by locals), I can’t find any information on the relationship between bison and pintails nor can I get any information from the American Prairie as to whether or not pintails are finding a lot of breeding success on their land (besides their bird checklist having the northern pintail listed) after scouring their website and contacting them twice.

I’m trying to find organizations that directly help pintails’ breeding habitat, and the American Prairie seems like the most obvious one, but I can’t go on what should be true. Does anyone know anything about bison and pintails’ relationship at all?

Edit: I just remembered a really great tool for comparing species ranges called “iNaturalist;” I don’t know if you’ve heard of it :rofl:

Anyway, I just did a really basic thing and looked at the bison and pintail populations in a portion of pintails’ wintering range. Eyeballing it, it looks like people don’t observe pintails where they observe bison. It’s hard to glean anything useful from the first picture, but I highlighted Great Slave Lake (Yellowknife), Catalina Island, and Oceanside (I didn’t cherry-pick those places, either; those are the only places I zoomed in on). I think that’s pretty interesting, even if it’s some kind of iNat bias and not directly related to the relationship between bison and pintails.

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Playa Lakes Joint Venture is a conservation organization focused on restoring this particular wetland amid grasslands. Unsure that they are directly focused on Bison, though playas are also called “Buffalo Wallows,” but they are definitely trying to restore wetlands that would benefit waterfowl.

Here is a search for Northern Pintail on their web site, if you want to peruse the results: https://pljv.org/?s=northern+pintail

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They really single out pintails specifically for liking playas, which I didn’t know, but they still only talk about them overwintering

A major cause of the prairie potholes in North America was the glaciers. Bison may have some minor effects, but glaciers were the main cause.

The group Ducks Unlimited does a lot of work with wetland conservation for waterfowl.

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Relationship between Bison and Pintail Breeding?
As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is absolutely no relationship between Pintail (or any other Wild Ducks) Breeding and Bison (or any other Bovid).
Northern Pintails built their nests in depressions created naturally or they themselves dig it.
However, Pintails do not breed in our Country. They only come here in winter as Guests and go back at the end of winter.
However speaking of bison you reminded me of an incident where one fellow was not doing them any favors but rather was annoying them.


You can spot many of them here e.g Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ferruginous Duck, Gadwall, Greylag Goose, Eurasian Coot, Bar-headed Goose, Painted Stork etc.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

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Both Audubon and Cornell have pintails breeding in the north western US as well as Canada, specifically both include Montana which is why I was looking at the American Prairie

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I got that.
Northern Pintails and the other migratory ducks which are seen in the Indian wetlands come from the temperate Eurosiberia geographic region (i,e Northern pintails who breed in the arctic regions of Eurasia).
One thing may be irrelevant, but still let’s say it. At one time these birds were greatly reduced due to heavy hunting. Now this hunting is completely illegal in India. Rather, after continuous counseling in most areas, Poachers themselves have now become protectors. They now work as tourist guides, Boatmans etc in those wetlands…

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Oh, I think I see what you meant now. You said “our country,” so I thought you used some context clues to figure out I was in the US and that you were saying you also lived in the US, but you just meant “our country” as in you and everyone else who lives there

Here in the US, funds from hunting licenses, weapons sales tax, and fishing gear sales tax goes into wildlife conservation, 100% of it, in order to counteract that exact thing from happening again. It mostly works the way we do it now, as otters, bobcats, and deer which were once all extirpated in my state are now hunted while their population continues to increase, but the pintail is an oddity among game waterfowl.

Some other game animals also don’t seem to be experiencing a benefit from this, but they rely on new growth forest (grouse) or grassland (quail), which the current system doesn’t seem to fund as much as wetlands, old growth forests, or bodies of water. That’s why I think wetland conservation isn’t the root issue for pintails either. Currently, we do still hunt them, but like the Ducks Unlimited link I posted said, we only made a season one year by a couple hundred thousand ducks. If there were that many less ducks, the season on pintails would close (there’s an explicit population threshold for each duck; I think it’s 1.75 million for pintails and that the survey that year showed 1.78 million), but they think their population probably wouldn’t rise even after closed season

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Would bison even be able to have a significant impact right now? Aren’t there only like 20,000 “wild” bison (including herds that are managed like domestic cattle like those on Antelope Island) and 400,000 farmed ones, compared to 30-60 million historically?

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The American Prairie uses beefalo, which most population counts don’t include. They also believe that bison can fulfill their ecological role on a 3.2 million acre prairie (the minimum requirement for a “functional” prairie according to them, and their ultimate goal) at just 5,000 individuals

…but the question of whether or not that role affects pintails is still mostly unanswered