Bird Conservancy of the Rockies implements wintering grassland bird monitoring throughout the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico and the southern United States. The data we collecst inform Full Annual-Cycle conservation strategies of grassland bird species in decline. We train field crews in English and Spanish in order to implement consistent and high quality data collection across the international border. We highly value the expertise of our conservation partners in Mexico.and our have embraced the bilingual and multicultural component of our programs in the region.
Grasslands contribute to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we enjoy, and landscapes we love to explore. They offer natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, even as they feed millions and support the livelihoods of rural communities. They help purify our world by capturing water and carbon in the soil and deep underground, mitigating undesirable events like climate change, wildfire and severe drought. Despite all this, grasslands are underappreciated by many. Read on to learn more about why grasslands are important to our world, and what you can do to help ensure their conservation for future generations!
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.
Of the shorebirds species that breed in North America, a clear majority migrate to wintering grounds in the temperate and tropical regions of Central and South America. Shorebirds whose breeding and wintering grounds are far apart must replenish their fat reserves during migration. They do this by stopping at a chain of staging areas, such as the Texas Coast, Cheyenne Bottoms in Kansas, the Rainwater Basins in Nebraska, and the Prairie Potholes of the Dakota’s. Threats to shorebirds have become more diverse and widespread in recent decades and pose serious conservation challenges. Effective conservation requires a wide-ranging approach to identify and reduce threats throughout the flyway.
Ever notice what appear to be small ponds on the grasslands during spring? These are ‘playa lakes’ — temporary wetlands that dot the prairies of the western Great Plains. Playas are shallow depressions lined with clay soil that holds rain water. Healthy playas are a win-win for water conservation and birds. They benefit people by helping replenish groundwater, filtering water and assisting with flood control. They also provide wildlife habitat and important stopover points for migrating birds. Over the years, many playas have become degraded and are disappearing from the landscape. However, with proper restoration and management, playas can return to their full potential.
With over 70% of landownership in the Great Plains and Intermountain West being privately owned, landowners are one of the keys to conservation of wildlife habitat. Many at-risk bird species use private lands during their annual life-cycle. Our Private Lands Wildlife biologists work assist landowners in navigating the complex process for securing funding for management plans, habitat enhancements, and infrastructure improvements on working lands through USDA Farm Bill. By targeting the specific needs of local stakeholders and geographic areas, we not only make funding more accessible, but we use the resources more efficiently to ensure conservation is happening where it’s needed most.
The cultural heritage of those that tend the land and call it home—from ranchers to Indigenous Peoples to ejidos—is closely tied to the fate of grasslands. Rural communities and economies depend on healthy grasslands and the services they provide which include aquifer recharge, productive rangelands, outdoor recreation and more. Despite their importance, the plight of grasslands has been largely overlooked, but a new initiative has launched which aims to chart a better future for this precious resource.
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.
The grassland ecosystem of North America is home to some of the fastest-declining species of birds. Sustainable ranching practices are a vital part of the grasslands story — past, present, and future. That’s why Bird Conservancy of the Rockies invests in land stewardship efforts on working lands. Together with private landowners, we are partnering to conserve, restore and revitalize healthy prairie landscapes for the benefit of people and wildlife communities across the Great Plains.