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. To help farmers avoid inadvertently plowing over plover nests, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies coordinates a nest-marking program.
The Bird Conservancy works with farmers in western Nebraska to locate and mark Mountain Plover nests on their property. Thousands of Mountain Plover chicks and their nests have been saved since the program’s inception in 2001 in western Nebraska, primarily Kimball County. Plover breeding range in Nebraska includes Kimball, Banner and Cheyenne counties.
The 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
The 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.
The 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.
See Plovers and Learn More!
The Bird Conservancy and Kimball County Visitors Committee offer tours to see the elusive Mountain Plover. Tours are held in western Nebraska in the spring.
The 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.