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.
Each summer, migratory birds like the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher fly thousands of miles between their summer breeding grounds and wintering locations. An impressive feat under any circumstances, 2020’s fall migration brought particularly difficult challenges including record-breaking wildfires, air pollution, and extreme temperature and weather events. Sadly, many of these little international travelers did not survive.
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 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.
The grasslands of the Chihuahuan desert provide important overwintering habitat for over 90% of the migratory grassland species in western North America. Recently, our team joined partners and private landowners on a scenic tour through northern Mexico to visit some of Sustainable Grazing Network ranches that are working to conserve and restore grassland habitat for the benefit of people and birds.
After several decades of steep declines, Aplomado Falcon populations are slowly rising again in the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico, thanks to the efforts of our local partners, ranchers and biologists who are working hard to improve habitat, providing nesting locations, and closely monitor the progress of this threatened species.
Brown-capped Rosy-Finches nest at higher elevations than any other bird species in the United States, and their breeding distribution is almost entirely limited to Colorado. Despite residing in an almost pristine environment for most of the year, they have declined by as much as 95% over the past 50 years and, unfortunately, we don’t know why. Read on to learn more about our efforts to solve this mystery.
Bird Conservancy is deploying sophisticated acoustic recording devices as part of the Mexican Spotted Owl monitoring program in Arizona and New Mexico.