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First Mountain Plover Nest of the Season Found

By May 13, 2013Science, Stewardship
Plover Nest

The first plover nest of the season was found May 8 with three eggs, a full clutch. Photo by Tasha Blecha.

Wednesday, July 3 update: RMBO’s field crew in Kimball County, Nebraska, reports that 63 Mountain Plover nests have been found and marked, with 13 of those nests found by landowners. So far, 32 nests have had hatching take place with many more nearing hatching. In addition, the crew has placed 15 transmitters on plovers this season to investigate foraging and habitat use.

Tuesday, June 11 update: RMBO’s field crew in Kimball County, Nebraska, reports that 38 Mountain Plover nests have been found and marked so far this season. Three of those nests have had hatching take place in the last few days. Biologist Larry Snyder said the nests are hatching a bit later than usual this year, which may be the result of late snowstorms that delayed the arrival and breeding of Mountain Plovers in western Nebraska this spring.

Thursday, May 23 update: RMBO’s field crew in Kimball County, Nebraska, reports that 17 Mountain Plover nests have been found and marked to date, with three of those nests found by landowners participating in RMBO’s nest-marking program. The crew’s goal is to find and mark 100 nests by July 10. In addition, two plovers have been outfitted with radio-transmitters as part of a foraging and habitat study. The crew’s goal is to place transmitters on 40 plovers this season.

Despite April snowstorms delaying the arrival of birds to their breeding grounds in western Nebraska, the start of another successful breeding season for Mountain Plovers has finally arrived. On May 8, RMBO’s field crew discovered its first Mountain Plover nest of the season. After the cold start to spring, this newly laid nest with a clutch of three eggs was an important find and generated considerable excitement among the crew.

Mountain Plover

A Mountain Plover walks across a crop field in western Nebraska. Photo by Tasha Blecha.

 
For more than a decade, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory has worked with private landowners in western Nebraska to conserve Mountain Plovers. Plovers make their nests right on the bare ground and may decorate them with a few pebbles or bits of grass. The nests camouflage nicely with their environment, making them hard for farmers to spot while tilling their fields. Through RMBO’s program, plover nests are located in crop fields then marked with brightly colored stakes so landowners can view – and avoid – the nests while on a tractor. In 2012, 66 nests were marked through RMBO’s program, and 67% of those nests produced young.

Also this season, RMBO hopes to learn more about foraging and habitat use of Mountain Plovers by attaching radio-tags to 20 adults and monitoring their movements. Plovers can be nomadic and will move where habitat conditions are favorable. These birds use a mosaic of landscape and habitat types for nesting, preferably bare ground on flat tablelands with unobstructed views. This allows the adults to remain vigilant, which can aid in reduced predation.

~ Larry Snyder, Nebraska Project Biologist