Many birds begin preparing their nests during April. Since some birds, including the Plover and Curlew families, nest on the ground, it is important for people to stay on established paths, for bikes and other vehicles to stay on designated routes, and for pets — cats as well as dogs — to stay on leash throughout the nesting season.

Piping Plover

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is a little bird that nests in soft sand near water in three parts of the country: the Great Plains (including eastern Montana), Great Lakes, and Atlantic Coast. It is a threatened species in the Missouri River watershed of the Northern Great Plains. It is endangered in the rest of the country. Its survival depends upon us protecting its sandy nesting habitat on islands, sandbars, and the shore of the Missouri River and its tributaries and reservoirs, as well as alkali ponds; also on beaches and shores throughout its other ranges. Habitat loss at wintering sites, along migration routes, and particularly at nesting sites has contributed to population decline. Disturbance and predation are other threats to this species.

Long-billed Curlew

The Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) is an uncommon and solitary bird. As the name suggests, it has a long bill that curves downward. It is a large bird in the sandpiper family. A migratory bird, the Long-billed Curlew nests in dry grasslands across Montana from April into September. Grassland bird populations are in decline. Over half the total population of 31 grassland species has disappeared since 1970, according to a recent study published in the journal Science. The authors of that study explained, "Birds are excellent indicators of environmental health and ecosystem integrity," so we need to take better care of our grasslands! After all, we already lost to extinction the Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis), once numerous in Montana's eastern grasslands during its spring migration.