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Swainson’s Hawk

A highly gregarious species, the Swainson’s hawk forages and migrates in flocks sometimes numbering in the thousands. Its movement through Central America has been described as among “the most impressive avian gatherings in North America, since the demise of the Passenger Pigeon”. Nearly 350,000 Swainson’s hawks have been counted passing over a single point in Panama City in October and November, and up to 845,000 have been counted in a single autumn in Veracruz, Mexico.

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Sprague’s Pipit

When males are displaying during the breeding season to attract a mate, they often remain airborne for half an hour. In one case, a male Sprague’s pipit was observed displaying for 3 hours before descending to the ground! No other bird is known to perform such prolonged displays.

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Scaled Quail

Scaled quail populations can fluctuate each year in response to weather in a boom-bust cycle, mainly from a lack of rain or heavy snowfall. These weather events reduce food supplies and cause mortality, but quail population can rebound in years with ample food. They typically have short life spans but high reproductive potential.

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Gunnison Sage-grouse

Gunnison sage-grouse became officially recognized as a distinct species from greater sage-grouse in 2000, and was the first new bird species recognized in the U.S. since the 1800s! They are geographically isolated from greater sage-grouse populations, found in seven distinct populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. There are fewer than 5,000 individual Gunnison sage-grouse, and the species is classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

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Pygmy nuthatch

To survive cold nights, pygmy nuthatches huddle together in tree cavities and let their body temperature drop down into hypothermia. They are one of two bird species in North America that uses this combination of energy-saving mechanisms; the other being the Vaux’s Swift.

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Sharp-tailed Grouse

Sharp-tailed grouse were an important source of food for Native Americans, and elements of the birds’ spring breeding display have been incorporated into the traditional dances of some Native American tribes. Some dances, such as the Grouse Dance of the Northern Tutchone people, is still practiced to this day.

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Lark Sparrow

Courting male lark sparrows put on a dance that lasts for up to 5 minutes. The dance starts with the male hopping, then spreading his tail and drooping his wings so that they nearly touch the ground, almost like a turkey strutting.

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Horned Lark

The female Horned Lark selects a nest site on bare ground, apparently with no help from her mate. She uses her bill to loosen soil and flip it aside to dig a cavity, sometimes also kicking dirt out with her feet. She either chooses a natural depression in which to build the nest or excavates the site herself, a process that can take several days.

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White-throated Woodrat

The white-throated woodrat is also called a packrat. They will live in burrows, caves, or construct elaborate middens of coarse woody debris, vegetation, and cactus joints. Middens or dens are built at the base of trees, shrubs, and cacti using locally available materials such as spiny plant parts from cholla, prickly pear, mesquite, and catclaw, likely as protection from predators. Middens can get as large as 3 ft/0.9 m high and 10 ft/3 m in diameter.

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American Pika

American pika are very sensitive to temperatures and can die if exposed for brief periods to temperatures greater than 77.9o F/ 25.5o C. They rely on a moderate snowpack to insulate them from extreme cold. Pikas have high energetic demands as they do not hibernate. Therefore they are considered an indicator species for climate change especially temperature extremes and changes in snow.

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