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Stewardship Tools for Landowners
Mountain Plover Nest Conservation Program

Once common throughout its range, Mountain Plover populations have been significantly reduced and its breeding area has been constricted. It is a "species of high conservation concern" in Colorado and "threatened" in Nebraska. Approximately 60% of the continental population breeds in Colorado’s eastern plains where 80% of the nesting habitat is on private land.

Mountain Plovers nest in flat, prairie-dominated landscapes characterized by short, sparse vegetation and bare ground (
see Knopf diagram). They are also attracted to bare, cultivated fields. Therefore, depending on the timing or the type of farm implements being used to work the land, nests can be lost or damaged.

In 2003, RMBO pioneered the Mountain Plover Nest Conservation Program in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. Through voluntary partnerships with private landowners, RMBO biologists surveyed suitable nesting habitat on cultivated land and marked nests with brightly colored wooden stakes so the nests can be avoided during cultivation (see photo to right). Profitability of farms was not compromised as nests only need to be missed by inches (see top left photo). In addition, Mountain Plover eggs hatch within 30 days, and chicks leave the nest within an hour or two of hatching, allowing the producer to farm through the nest site.

Since its inception, the program grew exponentially, largely due to the active involvement of agricultural producers. Originally partnering with six landowners enrolling 14,000 acres of farmland, we have surveyed more than 470,000 acres for Mountain Plover in Colorado resulting in more than 700 nests being conserved.

The program has shown how non-regulatory efforts can promote the conservation of an at-risk species on private land. Because more producers are now aware of the Mountain Plover and have shown a willingness to help conserve it, the program has transitioned to a landowner-led initiative. Nest marking is being phased out as producers are locating nests on their own and avoiding them during routine cultivation activities.

To learn more about nest conservation efforts in Nebraska and Colorado contact one of our state coordinators (at right). For more information, including tips on identifying and locating nests see our Got Plover? We Need You brochure. To learn more about Mountain Plover natural history and current research on nest marking success and nest and chick survival go to our Science pages.  

Angela Dwyer
Nebraska Program Coordinator
Nebraska Prairie Partners
230 Cherry Street
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(970) 482-1707 ext. 17

Ross Lock
Colorado Program Coordinator
230 Cherry Street
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(970) 482-1707 ext. 23

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