Bird Conservancy runs many scientific, educational, and outreach programs that promote birds and their habitats and inspire people’s love of nature, and we are proud of the impact we have on our communities. In one year alone, we enhanced over 29,000 acres across six states, reached almost 6,000 participants through virtual outreach opportunities, and monitored one million acres to determine bird responses to management and restoration efforts. But none of these programs would be successful without our talented and dedicated staff. In this post, we highlight one employee who works behind the scenes year-round to implement one of the largest breeding bird monitoring programs in North America – Matthew McLaren, the coordinator for the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program at Bird Conservancy. He’s been a dedicated member of our organization since 2011, and he’s “what makes IMBCR work year in and year out.”
Bird Conservancy and our partners spent much of 2021 implementing the first phase of a network of bird tracking stations across the Great Plains. It’s been an exhilarating, exhausting and rewarding year installing Motus stations at amazing places across central Flyway. We worked closely many partners, put 18 new Motus stations on the map, planned future sites, and watched as our towers detect tagged birds! The work continues with Motus stations installed throughout the Rocky Mountain West and northern Mexico, coupled with training opportunities for partners and deployment of over 100 radio tags on grassland birds.
Species monitoring is a vital tool for conservation biology. Monitoring provides baseline information that is required for effective design and evaluation of conservation policies and management strategies. Monitoring studies are particularly important for declining species such as the Black Swift. Black Swifts have experienced range-wide population declines in the US and Canada, but the mechanisms underlying population declines are poorly understood. Our proposed monitoring network will provide baseline sampling to precisely estimate abundance, regional population size, and population trend data through time to provide valuable information for this species’ road to recovery.
The Chihuahuan Desert population of Northern Aplomado Falcon shrunk dramatically a century ago and was lost from the southwestern U.S. A tiny population survived in Mexico, but its continued survival is tenuous due to habitat loss and other factors. A tri-national partnership is monitoring this population’s breeding success and conducting a demographic study that includes satellite telemetry of juvenile falcons. What we are learning is guiding conservation and helping gain support from private landowners on the ground. The recent appearance of a young male falcon in New Mexico fosters hope that the Northern Aplomado Falcon might even be able to someday recolonize the Southwestern U.S.
Recent extensive bark beetle outbreaks have raised concerns about the health of western conifer forests and their capacity to support wildlife species. These tiny bugs bring big changes, transforming forests and re-shaping landscape ecology in extreme ways and on a grand scale. We surveyed birds in Colorado, gathering data to compare unimpacted forests with those following a beetle outbreak. What we found may surprise you!
Little is known about grassland birds during migration. Automated radio telemetry through the Motus Wildlife Tracking System can help us understand bird movement during this part of their life cycle. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is implementing a three-phase, multiyear project to expand the Motus network into the Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert, installing receiving stations along avian flyways to capture vital data and fill knowledge gaps.
Grassland bird populations are declining and the majority of species are understudied on their wintering grounds. In the winter of 2020, we implemented a regional monitoring program in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas to establish baseline population estimates of grassland birds. We surveyed on a number of expansive cattle ranches, each exhibiting fascinating ecological and management histories. Through the implementation of this program, we can share that collaboration between ranching operations and grassland bird conservation is mutually beneficial.
The Sprague’s Pipit is a charismatic songbird of North American grasslands. If you’ve ever wandered the Northern Great Plains in summer, you’ve probably heard their sweet song, and maybe even seen their high-altitude aerial displays which can last for hours. One of many fast-declining grassland bird species, we’re urgently working to learn more about the life cycle of the Sprague’s Pipit so that its song can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.
The deserts and canyons of the American Southwest are home to an array of unusual and captivating wildlife. Among these amazing animals is a species that’s easy to overlook—but not because it’s ordinary. Quite the opposite! Literally pint-sized and weighing less than a golf ball, if you weren’t looking carefully, you could easily miss the world’s smallest owl.
Since 1970, less than a single lifetime, North America has lost more than one in four of its birds, according to a report in the world’s leading scientific journal. New findings just published in the journal Science confirm staggering losses among birds. Based on nearly 50 years of data, this research for the first time quantifies a long-developing but overlooked ecological crisis.