Spring migration is under way. Just as the birds return north, so do the RMBO scientists who study them on their wintering grounds. Back home in Colorado, biologist Erin Strasser offers preliminary results from a second season studying winter survival and habitat use of Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands.
RMBO is partnering with the University of Colorado-Denver to support a graduate research project to better understand how Mountain Plovers utilize habitat during the nesting cycle. Biologists will study their foraging habits by tracking adult plovers using radio-telemetry. CSU student Jamie Osterbuhr writes about this research, taking place in the crop fields of western Nebraska.
The Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States are the principal wintering grounds for 90% of grassland bird species breeding in the western Great Plains of North America. Species such as Baird’s Sparrows, Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Sprague’s Pipits, which rely on this region during the winter, have declined by upwards of 80% since the 1960s. Results from Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and cooperators’ research, published in February in the journal Biological Conservation, shed light as to why these birds are declining and emphasize that unless immediate action is taken, forecasts are dire.
The field season is under way in northern Mexico, where RMBO and partners are studying the winter survival and habitat use of Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. Writing from Chihuahua, biologist Erin Strasser provides an update on capturing and tracking sparrows, insights gained so far this season and stunning photos from the field.
Grassland birds are declining faster than any other group of North American birds. The key to reversing these declines may lie on their wintering grounds in northern Mexico. Writing from Chihuahua, biologist Erin Strasser provides a preview of RMBO’s second season studying the overwintering ecology of Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows in the Mexican grasslands.
“Another nest has failed.” This is the recurring news that technicians monitoring Aplomado Falcons in Chihuahua, Mexico, have reported over the last 18 years. Private Lands Wildlife Biologists Roberto Rodríguez and Pedro Calderón report from Chihuahua on last season’s monitoring of this iconic, grassland species and efforts to conserve its dwindling habitat there.
Grassland bird populations have declined more steeply than any other group of North American birds. Since 2006, RMBO has partnered with the City of Fort Collins to inventory and monitor grassland birds on city-owned properties near the Colorado-Wyoming border. These properties represent some of the most significant grasslands in northern Colorado and support populations of more than 20 high-priority bird species. Communications Coordinator Teddy Parker-Renga writes about a day in the field surveying birds on these properties and discusses the impact of the Mountains to Plains Region project.
RMBO’s field crew discovered its first Mountain Plover nest of the season on May 8. After the cold start to spring, this newly laid nest with a clutch of three eggs was an important find. Biologist Larry Snyder writes about the find and RMBO’s plover nest conservation program on the RMBO blog.
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory had a productive and successful first field season studying Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrow overwintering survival and habitat use in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of northern Mexico. From early November to early March, RMBO gathered a massive amount of novel and informative data on these two species at Reserva Ecológica El Uno near Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico.
A herd of bison grazes the golden-hued grasslands, Ferruginous Hawks patrol the skies for jackrabbits, and packs of coyotes yip back and forth across the prairie dog colonies. Thus was our welcoming as we arrived at Reserva Ecológica El Uno near Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico on the afternoon of Nov. 11. Our mission: Catch and place radio transmitters on Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows this winter to track them and study their habitat use and overwinter survival.