Mountain Plover Program
Mountain Plovers make their nests and fledge their young on flat, bare ground. Agricultural fields provide ideal habitat for them, as long as their nests are not accidentally tilled.
In 2001, Bird Conservancy coordinated a nest-marking program with farmers in western Nebraska, training private landowners in locating and marking Mountain Plover nests. This action enables farmers to avoid inadvertently plowing over plover nests. Thousands of Mountain Plover chicks and their nests have been saved since the program’s inception in western Nebraska, primarily Kimball County. Plover breeding range in Nebraska includes Kimball, Banner and Cheyenne counties.
Bird Conservancy’s research shows a hatching rate of 83% for Mountain Plovers on marked nests. This compares to a 22% hatching rate on unmarked, dummy nests on crop fields.
The Mountain Plover is a state-threatened bird in Nebraska. The state’s wildlife action plan identifies it as a Tier I at-risk species.
Habitat and Migration Research
Bird Conservancy is working with researchers from the University of Colorado-Denver to study Mountain Plovers’ habitat use on crop fields in western Nebraska. Adult plovers are outfitted with GPS tags and followed during the breeding season. Preliminary data suggest 1 mile around the nest is especially important for the bird’s foraging and, ultimately, its survival.
This is just the first step. We will continue our partnership with the University of Colorado to coordinate a region-wide effort to understand landscape level movement, migration and habitat use of Mountain Plovers breeding in western Nebraska. We will conduct this research using satellite technology, which would also reveal more about their wintering ecology, of which we know very little.
Bird Conservancy thanks its partners and funders for their help with Mountain Plover conservation in Nebraska: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Environmental Trust, University of Colorado-Denver, Virginia Tech, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Cooper Foundation, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, South Platte Natural Resources District, Kimball County Visitors Committee and our many private landowners.
Bird Conservancy and Colorado Parks and Wildlife operated a nest-marking program for Mountain Plovers breeding in Colorado from 2003-2008. The bird is a species of concern in Colorado. In those 5 years, 375 total nests were found and marked on crop fields in Colorado, saving 882 plover chicks.
See Mountain Plovers
Karval, Colorado’s Mountain Plover Festival began when community members were looking at economic opportunities for their small rural community. The area offers prime nesting habitat for Mountain Plover, which favors the dryland farming ranches in this area of Colorado. The festival is held in early April each year when plovers begin arriving in Colorado’s Eastern Plains. Learn more about Karval’s Mountain Plover festival on our blog!