Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Site profile: Chico Basin Shortgrass Prairie, Pueblo County

B2: Very High Biodiversity Significance
Chico Basin

This site was visited in 2002 as part of the Pueblo County Inventory. The site encompasses over 250 square miles of shortgrass prairie in northern Pueblo and southern El Paso counties. Here, extensive tracts of native blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) prairie on open flats or gently rolling terrain are home to numerous large towns of the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).

Cynomys ludovicianus
A black-tailed prairie dog checks out the scene from its burrow.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) are commonly seen within these prairie dog colonies, and the site also supports many breeding locations for the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus). These declining shortgrass prairie birds typically use areas with low vegetation and a high percentage of bare ground such as is found around prairie dog towns. Other shortgrass prairie wildlife species documented from the site include swift fox (Vulpes velox), McCown's Longspur (Calcarius mccownii), Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), and massasagua (Sistrurus catenatus).

Charadrius montanus
 Mountain Plovers in the kind of habitat that they love.

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