A Day in the Life of a Bird Counter

Lark Bunting

Diane VanLandingham owns ranchland near LaJunta, Colorado, and has permitted bird counters with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies onto her land to survey bird species and count their populations. She’s an enthusiastic participant in a new bird-counting program that provides higher quality data on bird populations and records information on the plants making up a local habitat. Jeff Birek is a bird counter and team manager with the Conservancy. He talks about the work of documenting bird populations.

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Landowner Response to Bird Population Surveys

Some landowners are wary of the motivations of technicians gathering bird data on their land. The more accurate data provided by the bird census program can benefit private landowners, who often shudder when there’s talk a bird might be listed as threatened or endangered because of land-use regulations such a listing can bring. Better data on bird populations has resulted in findings of higher populations of particular bird species — sometimes keeping a bird from being listed.

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Bird Population Surveys Benefit Landowners

Mountain Plover

A new program for counting birds relies on random data-collection-points across a landscape — some on public land, some on private. Ranchers shudder when there’s talk a critter might be listed as threatened or endangered; rules sometimes are imposed that impact or impede operations. This new bird-count program finds that bird populations may exist in larger numbers than assumed. In other words, allowing bird-counters on private land today can keep regulators off the land in the future.

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Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Because it’s a sporting bird, no species has been studied more than the Northern Bobwhite. Once ubiquitous across the southeast United States, the bird’s population is in decline. But researchers say the quail is willing to repopulate when prairie habitat is re-established. In that regard, ranchers and other land managers help this bird when they adopt modern cattle grazing and grassland management practices.

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Greater Prairie-Chicken

Greater Prairie-Chicken

A grouse of the open grassland, the Greater Prairie-Chicken is known for its mating dance, performed by males on flat display sites on shortgrass prairie called leks. Their range extends from northern Oklahoma through the Flinthills and northern Kansas, and on north through the centers of Nebraska and the Dakotas. Sarah Sortum and her brother found their way back to the family ranch in the central Nebraska sandhills by starting an eco-tourism business, allowing bird watchers to see this bird in its mixed-grass home.

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Grassland Birds

Western Meadowlark

Grassland birds are birds of the open grasslands, prairies, and meadows. They’re ground foragers of seeds and insects. They’re ground nesters. As a group, these birds have declined in population more than forest or wetland birds. Learn about the lives and habitats of grassland birds, and how conservation initiatives, like the Conservation Reserve Program, help these species.

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Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Swainson’s Hawk. Swainson’s Hawk is a commuter. It has one of the longest migrations of any American raptor. They winter in Argentina, then fly into North America as far as Canada to nest and breed during our summer. The bird can make the 6,200 mile trip in less than two months, averaging nearly 124 miles a day.

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Celebrating 100 Years of Bird Conservation

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which adopted a uniform system of protection for nearly all migratory bird species that inhabit, and often migrate between, the United States and Canada. National and international cooperation and action are essential in conserving and protecting the world’s migratory birds. Flying over long distances involves crossing many international borders and entering different political areas with their own cultures, politics, laws and conservation philosophies.

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Cassin’s Sparrow

Cassin's Sparrow

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Cassin’s Sparrow. Cassin’s Sparrow flies north into Great Plains states, into arid grasslands, to breed. But since perches are few and far between, it darts up into the sky singing for a mate. Once the male has found a mate, and the pair have produced chicks, it’s back to Mexico to winter.

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Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Burrowing Owl. During our winter, the burrowing owls have migrated south, down into Central America and Mexico. Often, New Mexico is an important wintering ground for this species, as well as south Texas and southern California.

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