While it's still quite early, current evaluations suggest little population impact due to winter weather and some potential improvement relative to two years of drought-induced declines.
"I don't have a crystal ball, but there is at least improvement this year in terms of soil moisture," said Ed Gorman, small game manager for CPW. "We've already set the stage in terms of nesting habitat, but not necessarily for brooding. Brood habitat develops a little later than nesting habitat, so the moisture we got a month ago doesn't really affect it. We still need moisture in late April and early May."
Gorman anticipates a relatively strong nesting cycle after a fairly typical winter for Colorado's most popular upland game birds. But should drought conditions return this spring, an ensuing lack of food and cover will challenge chicks to survive. Even snow will be welcome on the plains for a while.
"Every time it gets dry, you take a double hit of no food and no habitat," Gorman said. "When you have a blizzard, you at least get moisture to grow habitat. You can lose some birds, but it also serves to rebuild habitat, which in the end is what drives these populations anyway. I'll take winter moisture every time over drought."