Date of this Version
“Migration Chronology, Nesting Ecology, and Breeding Distribution of Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) in Nebraska” from Nebraska Bird Review (September 2008) 76(3).
The Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) is a loosely colonial (Graul 1975) upland shorebird that breeds across the xeric tablelands of the western Great Plains and shortgrass prairie ecoregion of North America (Knopf and Wunder 2006). This is a species of conservation concern throughout its range because of apparent range-wide population declines (Knopf and Wunder 2006). The U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan (USSCP) recently classified the species as globally highly imperiled (Brown et al. 2001; USSCP 2004). Reasons for the decline of Mountain Plovers are not fully understood. Habitat destruction and the tendency of the species to nest in agricultural fields, where nests may be susceptible to destruction from agricultural practices, have been identified as possible causes (Shackford et al. 1999, Dreitz 2005, Knopf and Wunder 2006).
In 2002 the Nebraska Prairie Partners (NPP), a cooperative partnership between the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO) and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), initiated a project to identify the extent of the breeding distribution and population size of Mountain Plover in Nebraska. The NPP made a concerted effort to gain access to private lands in the southwestern panhandle before initiating systematic research and monitoring activities focused on Mountain Plover ecology. Specific monitoring activities included roadside surveys, early spring visual checks in areas where plover were found in previous years, and monitoring nests in agricultural fields (nest marking) throughout May and June of most years. In addition, surveys of randomly selected 200 x 200 meter patches (patch surveys) were conducted in late April and May of the 2004–2007 field seasons.
The purpose of this paper is to provide an updated, descriptive assessment of Mountain Plover in Nebraska. We base our conclusions on six years (2002–2007) of Mountain Plover monitoring data in the southwestern panhandle of Nebraska. We reviewed data collected from our monitoring activities to reassess the status of Mountain Plover in Nebraska including (1) estimated arrival dates of spring migrants and departure dates of fall migrants, (2) nesting chronology and time intervals of peak nesting activity, and (3) a general distribution of breeding Mountain Plovers in the southwest panhandle.