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Habitat and nesting biology of Mountain Plovers in Wyoming

January 1, 2005

Although previous research has considered habitat associations and breeding biology of Mountain Plovers in Wyoming at discrete sites, no study has considered these attributes at a statewide scale. We located 55 Mountain Plover nests in 6 counties across Wyoming during 2002 and 2003. Nests occurred in 2 general habitat types: grassland and desert-shrub. Mean estimated hatch date was 26 June (n = 31) in 2002 and 21 June (n = 24) in 2003. Mean hatch date was not related to latitude or elevation. Hatch success of nests was inferred in 2003 by the presence of eggshell fragments in the nest scrape. Eggs in 14 of 22 (64%) known-fate nests hatched. All grassland sites and 90% of desert sites were host to ungulate grazers, although prairie dogs were absent at 64% of nest sites. Nest plots had less grass coverage and reduced grass height compared with random plots. More than 50% of nests occurred on elevated plateaus. The Mountain Plover's tendency to nest on arid, elevated plateaus further substantiates claims that the bird is also a disturbed-prairie species.