Volume 4 • Issue 2 • February 2010

Oklahoma Landowner Incentive Program Expands in NW Oklahoma

One New Phase for the Landowner Incentive Program

Northwest Oklahoma landowners can play a key role in conserving some of the state’s most important and unique wildlife habitats –– and receive financial incentives at the same time.

“Most every landowner I have met is passionate about the land and about the wildlife - both game and non-game - that lives there,” said Larry Wiemers, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  “Landowners also have a sharp eye on the bottom line of their operations.  The Landowner Incentive Program offers a real win-win situation from both perspectives.” 

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Landowner Incentive Program was created in 2003 to provide technical and financial assistance to landowners for the restoration, enhancement, and protection of habitats important to a wide range of at-risk non-game wildlife species. Some of the habitat types include playas, streams, and prairies.  The program was created with funds received through a nationally-competitive Congressional grant program.
The Landowner Incentive Program allows direct contact with landowners that strongly support the Department of Wildlife.

The Department recently expanded the program to include more habitat types, more non-game wildlife species, and more landowners in the southern high plains region.  One species that receives a high priority is the lesser prairie chicken.  With fewer numbers of this species, more is being done to conserve its habitat.

“All you have to do is fill out a simple one-page application, and a biologist will contact you to evaluate the property,” Wiemers said.  “In some cases, landowners can get straight incentive payments, and in other cases, we’ll share the restoration costs with landowners.” 

Interested landowners should contact wildlife biologist Larry Wiemers at (405) 990-7206, or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Written by Lesley B. Carson. Lesley is a wildlife diversity information specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Watchable Wildlife Species

The American White Pelican

The American white pelican is an easily viewed and charismatic part of Oklahoma’s watchable wildlife.  It is an impressive bird because of its large size (it is one of the largest birds in Oklahoma and in the U.S.) and its incredible wingspan that averages nearly 9 feet.  This long wingspan allows pelicans to soar and ride updrafts and thermals like an eagle or a hawk – watching a flock of 200 or 300 pelican soaring overhead is an impressive sight!  At least half of the world’s population (estimated to be approximately 140,000 adult birds and 10,000-20,000 juveniles) passes through Oklahoma each spring and fall and provides many opportunities for viewing.  During the summer months, adult American white pelicans congregate at about 45-55 nesting colonies in the northern U.S . and Canada.  Most of these colonies are found on inland lakes and marshes that are scattered across the northern Great Plains and the interior mountains of the western United States.  In the fall, these birds move south and spend the winter months along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific coast of California and Mexico.

Be ready to see a flock of American white pelicans when visiting the Salt Plains Lake. Photo by Lesley B. Carson.
When searching for pelicans, look for them in shallow bays and coves on large reservoirs, and below the spillways of these lakes.  Pelicans spend much of their time hunting for fish.  White Pelicans do not dive like their saltwater relative, the brown pelican.  Instead, they use their long necks and bills to scoop up fish that they find in the surface water of lakes and rivers – about the upper two or three feet of the water column.  Because of this limitation, pelican are not a major predator of catfish or bass, instead, plankton-feeding shad make up a large part of their diet as well as small carp and sunfish that feed on and around emergent aquatic vegetation.  White pelicans often work together to catch fish.  They gather into small groups of 10 to 40 birds and swim closely-spaced in a line along the lake shore.  As they swim, they drive schools of fish ahead of them and in toward the shallow water near the shoreline.  Once the fish are concentrated and somewhat trapped in the shallow water, the pelicans form a circle around them and scoop them up with their pouched bills.   Other fish-eating birds such as mergansers, terns and gulls sometimes follow the pelican flocks and take advantage of the fish that they’ve corralled.

While passing through Oklahoma during their migration, white pelicans can be found on nearly all of our larger lakes, reservoirs and rivers.  The spring migration occurs between late March and mid-May; and the fall migration spans the period from late August through late November.   In warmer winters, small numbers of pelicans may spend the entire winter on some of our larger lakes.   Many of the state parks that occur on large federal reservoirs offer good vantage points for observing migrating flocks of American white pelicans in Oklahoma.  These include, but are not limited to, Quartz Mountain State Park (SP) at Altus-Lugert Reservoir; Sequoyah SP at Fort Gibson Reservoir; Lake Texoma SP at Lake Texoma; Foss SP at Foss Reservoir; Keystone SP at Keystone Reservoir;  and Arrowhead and Fountainhead State Parks at Eufaula Reservoir.  The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge and Salt Plain Reservoir annually host 20,000 or more pelicans during each migration cycle.  The lake’s shallow water (average depth is less than six feet) makes this reservoir an ideal fishing ground for pelicans.  Another popular migration stopover for the pelicans is Grand Lake of the Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma.  Pelicans are so numerous on the lake that the city of Grove, has developed a Pelican Festival to commemorate the migration.  The Pelican Festival has been held annually in late September for more than 25 years and is a great opportunity to see pelicans and learn more about their unique life history!

Written by Mark Howery. Mark is a wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Roaming of the Bluebirds

Again, it is time...

Looking for a fun outdoor activity for the entire family?  Try building some bluebird nest boxes.  Once that’s accomplished, select a locale to place them.  Then get ready to observe some wonderful avian antics.

The eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis, is native to the eastern 2/3 of the United States and can be found throughout Oklahoma.   We also have a few mountain bluebirds, Sialia currucoides, out in the very tip of the panhandle.

Bluebirds are cavity nesters who normally reside in old trees (snags) filled with wood pecker holes or hollowed out knot holes.  Unfortunately for the birds, many folks remove these trees for firewood or safety reasons so installing one or several boxes helps.  Installing some ready to go boxes makes searching for a home a little easier on the birds come spring time.  There in lies your assignment.

There are many nest box plans out there for you to choose from and some are better than others.  A box that we have been building at the Wildlife Expo the past few years is simple, inexpensive one that appeals to the bluebirds.  It is a design put together by Mike Porter and Ken Gee of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore.  It is a one board plan, meaning that an entire nest box can be assembled out of a 1”x 6”x 6’ board of your choice. Click here for the fact sheet and plans.

Your next task, where do you put them?  Just like you and I shopping for a new house, the experts say, “location is everything.”  Bluebirds like open areas such as meadows, road sides, cemeteries, golf courses and parks. Mowed areas away from town are optimum.  They need trees, fence rows and power lines to perch on.  Boxes should be placed at least 5 feet off the ground to discourage predators.  Fasten the box to a utility pole, fence post, metal pole, T-post, landscape timber or hang it on a wire from the branch of a tree.  The opening of the box should face to the north, northeast or east.  This will lessen hard rains and extreme heat from affecting the box.  No need to paint the box.  Leave it natural.  It blends in better and the birds seem to like it that way.  Go ahead and install your boxes now.  Birds will use them to roost in during the winter and will familiarize themselves with your boxes making it more likely that they use them for nesting.

Be patient once you’ve set out your box.  If you’re lucky, they will use your box right away.  Other times, it may take a couple seasons.  Just remember, if you build it, they will come!  Now get ready to enjoy some of Mother Nature’s splendor and have fun with those kids!

For more bluebird information go to these sites:

The North American Bluebird Society

Sialis Home Page

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Written by Keith Thomas. Keith is a fisheries biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Wildlife Diversity Donations

Scissortail Supporters ($10-$39)

Matt Robinson, Broken Arrow

Natalie Hale, Tecumseh

Randy McCormick, Locust Grove

Stephen Tizibell, Ramona Thomas Moss, Seminole Aileen Crosley, Edmond

Jan and Jeanne Coleman, Alex

Dr. Jerry Mitchell, Marlow

Tim Harris, Francis

Carole Bourns, Sumner, TX

Mary Jane Easterling, Fort Cobb

Prairie Dog Pioneers ($40-$74)

John and Carol Layne, Claremore

Wildlife Diversity Conservator ($125 & Above)

Dr. R.P. Garrison, Norman

Wildscape Properties

Newly Certified

Holly Sweet, Tulsa

Steve & Faye Curry, Fort Gibson

Roger G. Addison, Edmond

Melinda West, Guthrie

"The Hill" at OK Library for the Blind and Disabled, OKC

Our Mission:

The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.