Welcome to The Nature Conservancy of Idaho's blog, your source for Idaho natural history, wildlife, conservation and outdoor recreation. The views represented here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of The Nature Conservancy.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
America’s Largest Shorebird Nests in Idaho?
by Jordan Reeves, East Idaho conservation manager
it seems counter-intuitive, the long-billed curlew, considered to be America’s largest
shorebird, journeys over a thousand miles every year from the warm climates,
wetlands, and sandy beaches of California and Northern Mexico to nest and rear
its young among Idaho’s grasslands.Who
would have guessed it?In fact, The
Nature Conservancy’s 1,600-acre Flat Ranch Preserve on the Henry’s Fork of the
Snake River is considered to be among Idaho’s most important nesting sites for
these charismatic birds.
The Conservancy’s rotational grazing program, along with the
pristine waters of the Henry’s Fork and its tributary streams, provide a vast
network of wetlands and a mosaic of native grasses that provide curlew with
shelter and nourishment during their vulnerable fledgling stages.Despite the incredible habitat awaiting these
birds as they return to the Henry’s Fork each summer, local wildlife biologists
are growing increasingly concerned by evidence of declining curlew populations
across Idaho and much of the West.Many
ranchers and farmers are seeing fewer birds return to nest with each passing
summer and unfortunately they don’t yet know why.How far do these birds travel in the course
of a year?Where do they stop along the
way?What types of habitats are they
using? And most importantly, what factors are threatening them during their
migration and reducing their population numbers?
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Idaho
Department of Fish and Game and the Intermountain Bird Observatory, will
attempt to shed some light on these questions with our efforts to monitor
curlew on the Flat Ranch this summer.We
will be conducting pre-nesting and post-nesting surveys of long-billed curlew on
the Flat Ranch and neighboring properties during May in order to compare
population numbers from previous years and gain a better understanding of the
impacts to our local curlew population.
Thanks to the generous support of many community members
here in East Idaho and our TNC supporters throughout the country, we will also
be tagging one lucky curlew with a satellite transmitter.This device will allow us to track the
movements of this curlew throughout the year as it travels to wintering grounds
and returns (fingers crossed) safely to the Flat Ranch next summer.This is just the beginning of what we hope will
become a broader effort in the Henry’s Fork region and throughout Eastern Idaho
to monitor and track curlew population numbers and migration movements.The data we generate will give us a much
better understanding of the habitat Curlews need throughout their life cycle
and the potential threats to their survival, whether in Idaho, California, Mexico,
or somewhere in between. Ultimately our intention is to pin-point actions we
can take to ensure the iconic sight of long-billed curlews amongst the
grasslands of the Henry’s Fork will be enjoyed by many generations to come.