SPEARFISH (AP) – The population of a bird listed as a threatened species in South Dakota is stable in the Spearfish and Whitewood creek watersheds but not expanding, a study has concluded.
American dippers can be found throughout the West, but the Black Hills is the farthest east the species is located, and that population also is genetically different from others.
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies biologist Nancy Drilling last year surveyed the Bear Butte, Elk, Box Elder, French, and Rapid creeks, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.
"There is a pair (of dippers) at Thunderhead Falls on Rapid Creek. That is the only birds we found outside of Whitewood and Spearfish creeks," she said. "That is basically what we found in the early 2000s. They haven't moved or expanded."
The American dipper has been listed as threatened in South Dakota since 1996. Game, Fish, and Parks wants a self-sustaining population in a third watershed before the bird is removed from the list.
"A single pair in Rapid Creek does not meet that criteria," Drilling said.
Dippers once were widespread on French and Rapid creeks. The loss of dippers, save the lone pair, is likely due to the creation of Pactola Dam, which has caused erratic and lower stream flows. The loss of breeding birds on French Creek is likely due to pollution, sedimentation and the construction of Stockade Lake Dam, according to state officials.