Birding in Logan County
Did you know the Mountain Plover is a bird you can find on the flat, open plains of northeastern Colorado?
Despite its name, the sand-colored Mountain Plover is a species of open plains in the western United States. One of the Mountain Plover's more accurate nicknames is “Prairie Ghost,” inspired by this bird's habit of freezing in place when threatened, becoming nearly invisible among its dry, grassy surroundings.
Mountain Plover pairs usually make 2 simultaneous nests. The female lays half her eggs in each nest, and then the female incubates one while the male incubates the other.
American naturalist John Kirk Townsend was the first to bring Mountain Plovers to the notice of science, in 1834, when he found one along the Sweetwater River of Wyoming. His colleague John James Audubon gave the bird its first name, the Rocky Mountain Plover, even though the species is a bird not of mountains but of prairie.
Farmers and hunters sometimes refer to the Mountain Plover as the “prairie ghost,” on account of its ability to (seemingly) vanish into thin air—in fact, the bird usually just faces away from an observer and sits down, its upperparts indistinguishable from the pale tan color of the grassland around it.
The oldest recorded Mountain Plover was at least 10 years old when it was resighted in Montana in the wild and identified by its band.
Find This Bird
The first thing to do when looking for a Mountain Plover is to carry along or borrow a spotting scope. These small shorebirds live in wide-open spaces and can look very much like a clump of sod. In summer, look for them on preserved patches of shortgrass prairie such as the Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado. They often are attracted to prairie dog towns. In winter, look for them on plowed, newly planted, or fallow agricultural fields, as well as rangeland with short grass.