Shorebirds In the Intermountain West


Long-billed Curlew

The Intermountain West (IW) includes an array of wet habitats from saline sinks to alpine streams. Eleven species of shorebirds regularly breed in the IW, and 23 additional species are annual migrants. Two IW sites (Great Salt Lake, UT and Lahontan Valley, NV) are recognized by Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) as Hemispheric Sites, and two other IW sites (Mono Lake and Salton Sea, CA) are classified as International Sites. A number of additional IMW sites surpass WHSRN International Site requirements (e.g., Lake Abert and Summer Lake, OR).

The IW is North America’s most important region for breeding Snowy Plovers, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and Long-billed Curlews. Up to 90% of the world’s adult Wilson’s Phalaropes molt/stage in the IW’s hypersaline lakes prior to migrating to South America. The IW also hosts very large numbers of migrant Red-necked Phalaropes, Long-billed Dowitchers, Western Sandpipers and Marbled Godwits. The region, too, is the nation’s most important for wintering Mountain Plovers.

The most important issue facing shorebird conservation in the IW is the very great human-driven competition for water. Finding ample high quality fresh water will be the greatest challenge faced by future shorebird conservation interests.The Great Basin, one of the six BCR’s in the IW, stands out as enormously important for both breeding and migrating shorebirds. Of particular importance are the large hypersaline lakes, e.g., Great Salt Lake, UT; Lake Abert, OR and Mono Lake, CA, and the salt lake/playa associated marshes of Utah, Oregon and Nevada.

Priority Breeding Shorebirds:

  • Snowy Plover
  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Mountain Plover
  • Upland Sandpiper
  • American Avocet
  • Black-necked Stilt


IWJV Shorebirds

Chapter 5 of the IWJV 2013 Implementation Plan lays out the IWJV Shorebird strategy.