Bird Conservation Region 18

Shortgrass Prairie

Description: The shortgrass prairie lies in the rainshadow of the Rocky Mountains, where arid conditions greatly limit the stature and diversity of vegetation. Some of the continent’s highest priority birds breed in this area, including the Mountain Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow and McCown’s Longspur. Southern areas winter large numbers of three longspur species: McCown’s, Lapland and Chestnut-collared. Reasons for the precarious status of some these birds are poorly understood, but could involve a reduction in the diversity of grazing pressure as bison and prairie dogs have largely been replaced by cattle, and the gradual shift from once expansive prairies to fragmentation by agricultural interests. The BCR, along with BCR 19, hosts an endemic shrub community known as shinnery which in southern portions of the BCR hosts one of the species with the highest threats - the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. A few large rivers, such as the Platte, Arkansas and Canadian,drain out of the Rocky Mountains through this region toward the Mississippi. These rivers created broad, braided and treeless wetlands that are heavily used by migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and cranes. A hydrological simplification has resulted in the invasion of trees and shrubs that support breeding eastern riparian birds, but otherwise greatly reduce the value of the area's wetlands. Playa lakes, the most numerous wetlands in the BCR, are shallow, ephemeral wetlands that, when wet, support many wintering ducks including Northern Pintail, migrant shorebirdsincluding Baird’s and Least Sandpiper, and migrant Black Tern and Franklin’s Gull among other waterbirds. Saline lakes in Texas and New Mexico support important breeding species, such as the Snowy Plover and wintering populations of Sandhill Cranes. For further information on this region, visit the Playa Lakes Joint Venture website.

Bird Conservation Plans
Landbirds - New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Playa Lakes Joint Venture Area Implementation Plans
Shorebirds - Central Plains/Playa Lakes, Playa Lakes Joint Venture Area Implementation Plans
Waterbirds - Central Prairies, Playa Lakes Joint Venture Area Implementation Plans
Waterfowl -Playa Lakes Joint Venture Area Implementation Plans
All Birds - Playa Lakes Joint Area Implementation Plans

Joint Venture area: Playa Lakes

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Note: Hawaii (not shown) is BCR 67

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