A recent study and the end product tell the story of bird migration through Wyoming, and this information can be used to determine best land practices for the state, including Natrona County.
“Until now, we didn’t have maps showing important places for migrating birds,” said Amy Pocewicz, conservation scientist for the Nature Conservancy and one of the study’s authors. “We wanted to find a way to identify critical areas to inform developers, while also identifying areas for conservation. This is a great example of how science can translate into on-the-ground conservation.”
Those critical areas are places that are important to bird migration, especially where there are large concentrations of birds, she said. Pocewicz and her colleagues, WendyAnne Estes-Zumpf and Mark D. Andersen from the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD), developed models that predict where four groups of birds concentrate or stopover during their migration through the state. The models were based on existing scientific literature and knowledge from more than 30 regional bird experts regarding bird migration, behavior and ecology. The four avian groups looked at were raptors, wetland, riparian and sparse grassland species.
The Casper area is a stopover for many types of these birds, particularly those using riparian, wetland and grassland habitats, Pocewicz said. The North Platte River, for example, is an important area for migrating riparian and wetland birds. Other waterways, such as Alcova and Pathfinder reservoirs, Soda Lake, Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park and wetlands around Casper Creek are also critical for such species, which include songbirds like the song sparrow, Bullock’s oriole and orchard oriole, she said. Wetland bird species include sandhill cranes, common loons, great blue herons, white-faced ibis and northern pintails, she added.