The Mountain Plover is an upland shorebird that breeds across the xeric tablelands of the western Great Plains and is a species of conservation concern throughout its range because of apparent range-side population declines (Knopf and Wunder 2006). By the beginning of the 21st Century however, its extent in Nebraska was largely unknown. Bruner et al. (1904) described the species as "not uncommonin extreme western Nebraska" at the turn of the 20th century and noted the species had been observed in Cheyenne, Dawes, and Sioux Counties. As late 2000, Sharpe et al. (2001) described the species as a rare, regular breeder limited to southwestern Kimball County. In fact, few Mountain Plover nests had ever been located in Nebraska.
In 2002, the Nebraska Prairie Partners initiated the systematic research of Mountain Plover ecology to reassess their status in Nebraska. Monitoring efforts including estimated arrival dates and departure dates of migrants, nesting chronology and time intervals of peak nesting activity, and general distribution of breeding Mountain Plovers in the southwest panhandle.
Our monitoring efforts yielded 278 nests (272 on agricultural fields and six on native rangelands) over the duration of the study. The majority of nests were laid during the first two weeks of May. We observed Mountain Plovers incubating eggs into the middle of July, when it was previously believed that the birds migrated south (Sharpe et al. 2001). Our data also suggest that juveniles may reside within the state as late as early September, which is significantly longer than previously documented (Sharpe et al. 2001). Finally, compared with historically documented sightings, our results indicate that Mountain Plovers are more numerous in Nebraska than previously believed (see Figure below).
Other RMBO research related to Mountain Plovers quantifies the success of nests and chick survival as a result of our Nest Marking Program in agricultural lands.
Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A Preliminary Review of the Birds of Nebraska. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha.
Knopf, F.L. and J.R. Wunder. 2006. Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus). The Birds of North America, No. 211 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.) The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philidelphea, PA, and the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Sharpe, R.S., W.R. Silcock, and J.G. Jorgensen. 2001. Birds of Nebraska: Their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE. Pgs. 160-162.