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August 14, 2017

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Prairie Grassland Birds

Bird watching is a favorite pastime on the ranch, not just for those who live here, but also for those who visit.
Black Headed Grossbeak
The old cottonwoods that canopy the house are perfect for nest builders and cavity dwellers.
Blue Jay
These sights are carefully selected and are often out of sight. To see our feathered friends more clearly, we strategically place a couple of bird feeders off the deck of the ranch house for prime viewing.Red headed Woodpecker
The passerine birds are often very colorful, with flashes of orange, blue and red fluttering to and from their nest. 
Lazuli Bunting and Lark Sparrow
Although a few bird species stay through the winter, most show up in the spring, raise their families, then bunch up in the fall and head south.
Red Headed Woodpecker with Chick
Baby blue Jay Checks
Often when discussing birds with others, they learn for the first time that not all birds nest in trees.
Long Billed Curlew's
Where birds live, and the habitat they need for their survival, is not a topic that would make many people’s top 10 list but it’s on our minds all the time.
Short Horned Owl
The ground-nesting birds are more challenging to view, as their plumage is subtler, like the prairie itself. But like the passerines, many of these ground-nesting birds come to the prairie to breed and raise their young, with a few being year-long residents, like the Sharp Tailed Grouse. 
Prairie Playa with BirdsEach species seeks its specific niche within the prairie ecosystem. The diversity of the prairie grasses with open arid areas, dotted with prairie playas, is the required habitat for these species. 
Kill Deer Eggs & Chick

Wilson Phalerope
There are currently over 200 species of ground-nesting birds on the Great Plains prairies. These grassland birds have been on the decline since the mid 1800’s.
Sharp Tail Grouse
When the European settlers arrived, an estimated 360 million acres of tall-grass, short-grass and mixed-grass prairies filled the middle part of our country. Today, about 70 million acres remain. Although there are many contributors to their decline, the loss of grassland habitat due to prairie plow up and other exploitation is the largest factor.
Burrowing Owls
One of the most staggering statistics is the Eastern Meadowlark with an 89% decline over the last forty years. The Western Meadow Lark (pictured below) isn't trailing too far behind with a 40% decline over the same time period. 
Meadow LarkTheir songs are the bugle call "that spring has arrived." To think of it being silenced is heart wrenching. 
Buffalo Birds (Cow Birds)There is no doubt that preserving the breeding ground habitat for prairie ground-nesting birds is essential to their survival. So, if you see a lost or confused bird looking for good place to raise its family, send them our way, we've got room... as long as the buffalo keep marching on. 

Identification of bird photos from top to bottom: Black Headed Grossbeak, Blue Jay, Red Headed Woodpecker, Lazuli Bunting with Lark Sparrow, Juvenile Red Headed Woodpecker with adult, Baby Blue Jays, Long Billed Curlews, Short Eared Owl, Birds over playa; Mallards, Killdeer, Red Winged Black Birds, Yellow Headed Black Birds, Upland Sandpiper (Plover), Lark Buntings, Trio with eggs; Avocet Eggs, Baby Killdeer Chick, Killdeer Eggs, Wilson Phalarope, Sharp Tailed Grouse, Western Meadow Lark with Meadowlark Nest and Buffalo Birds (cow birds) with bison.  Photos taken by Jill O'Brien on the Cheyenne River Ranch, in western SD.


Comments

Kathy Antonen

August 16, 2017

Your work, your words and your photos are heartwarming, Jill. Excellent. Keep on.

Mary

August 16, 2017

Loved this. Thank you. r

Rosanne Stratigakes

August 16, 2017

So glad you’re providing this much needed space for our feathered friends. Makes me want to visit. Keep up the blog and pics if it works for you regarding this important,beautiful work. Gives me a glimpse of what life must have been like in the past—- a little.

Tim Harris

August 16, 2017

Very, very interesting article. When flying over the midsection of our country, I’ve often seen these playas. I thought they were ponds for farming, etc. Now I have a greater understanding of these necessary areas! I also did a quick research on Playa Wetlands and discovered this very interesting site.

http://integrativebiology.okstate.edu/index.php/people/57-playa-wetlands-in-the-great-plains

This site has lots of information on Playa Wetlands and it along with your blog sparked an interest in this critical habitat.

Thank You!

Tim Harris

Noah

August 16, 2017

We love your photos (and products); probably going to American Prairie Reserve in the fall. Hope to see these and other birds there.

Donald Good Voice

August 16, 2017

should we lose even just one species mankind will feel it. the old ones say that if the animals and winged ones left we would die of loneliness of the spirit. not to mention the pollination of plants.

Ramona

August 16, 2017

Love the pictures! (BTW- I think Killdeer is spelled as one word!) Thanks for all you do!

Libby

August 16, 2017

Beautiful – birds and wherever they may live, will always be on my top ten! I have always loved birds. Thank you for sharing this and for the work you are doing.

Tracy Brooks

August 16, 2017

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Doug Williams

August 16, 2017

Thanks Jill….splendid!

Bob Watland

August 16, 2017

Good story and good photos keep up the good work. May God bless you and yours.

Georgene Erickson

August 16, 2017

So far, these photographs have been the highlight of my day – quite possibly week. You have a real gift for capturing the nuances of these birds personalities. Beautiful. I’m going to forward this on, to friends near Sedona, who have a bird sanctuary, on their Canyon Wren property. Thank you, for the poetry, in pictures.

Barbara Henry

August 16, 2017

The photos you display are priceless! How blessed you are to live in that special place.

Cheves Leland

August 16, 2017

Thank you, Jill great photos and descriptions. Hope I will one day be able to see them in person. Take care and love to all.

Ardis Moonlight

August 16, 2017

Thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs and information, Jill. How neat to live on a prairie and see such a variety
of birds.

Randolph ward

August 16, 2017

Very pleased to see the rare birds, most folks in Washington don’t realize how important these creatures are and all of our help is needed to help these birds trive again

Patrick OBrien

August 16, 2017

Fantastic photos, Jill! Thanks for sharing!

Michael Golden-Lund

August 16, 2017

Thank you. I live in California, but have very fond memories of bird watching on the Southwestern Minnesota prairie with my grandfather.

Lan Evenson

August 17, 2017

Wonderful bird photos and narritive Jill. Thank you.

Marie Johns

August 17, 2017

Thanks so much for this post. I will be moving to OK in September and was wondering what species of birds I would be able to see. These are such colorful and exciting birds. Hummingbirds just came to my feeders in Virginia this week. Do you have hummingbirds our where your are?

Alice Bast

August 20, 2017

Beautiful photos. I love bird watching also.

Lynn Roman

September 01, 2017

A friend posted these photos with the link to you. You have a gorgeous place and wonderful birds there. Do you ever have birdwatching tours or events there? If so, I’d love to know about it!
Thank you for all that you do.

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