Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the top staging areas (the places migrating birds stop to feed and rest) for shorebirds and waterfowl in the United States. These wetlands hosts tens of thousands of shorebirds and up to 1/4 million waterfowl each year during their migrations. The shallow marshes — averaging less than one foot deep — are ideal habitats for wading shorebirds.
Of the 482 species of birds that have been documented in Kansas, 356 have been observed using Cheyenne Bottoms. Through banding efforts, we know that birds here migrate north as far as western Alaska and the tundra at the edge of the arctic, and south to Louisiana, Texas, Central America and the far reaches of South America. Providing abundant food and a place rest, Cheyenne Bottoms is an essential link in this migration.
A Vanishing Habitat
Between 1955 and 1978, about 40 percent of the wetlands in Kansas disappeared. Wetland losses throughout the nation, and internationally, have caused populations of some shorebird species — starved for water, food and nesting sites — to shrink by 60 to 80 percent. Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve is a step toward reversing these trends by safeguarding and enhancing wetland habitat.
Restoring Variety to Attract Diversity
Central to the Conservancy's restoration and management plan is the importance of providing a mosaic of aquatic habitats — large, small, shallow, deep, salty, fresh, weedy and open water — to attract a diversity of bird species. A single wetland type cannot provide all the resources required by many plant and animal species. Ensuring this diversity is the best opportunity to meet complex conservation needs and support greater biodiversity of plants and animals. The adjacent grasslands provide nesting and wintering habitat for grassland birds like ring-necked pheasant and raptors like red-tailed hawks that stay in the area year-round. During the spring and summer, visitors will see cattle on the Conservancy's land at Cheyenne Bottoms. Controlled livestock grazing is an effective and inexpensive management tool for maintaining the range of habitat conditions.