Plight of Grassland Birds
Several grassland bird populations are rapidly declining and even approaching extirpation in significant portions of their ranges, including New York State. Data from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) indicate that populations of Henslow’s Sparrows have decreased by over 99% in New York, and Grasshopper Sparrow populations have decreased by 97%. The Bobolink, still New York’s most ubiquitous grassland bird, has experienced population declines of approximately 50% across its range. The consensus of experts studying this problem is that habitat loss, fragmentation, and deterioration are the main culprits.
While a variety of wildlife and plants depend on grassland habitats, the targeted species in this effort are the most specific in their habitat preferences and needs, and are the species most commonly designated as “grassland birds” in New York. While the traditional habitats most commonly considered to be grasslands are the tall and short-grass prairies of the Midwest, some of the common landcover types in New York that provide habitat for these grassland birds include hayfields, pastures, fallow fields, and other agricultural lands, as well as recently abandoned agricultural lands, landfills, airports, and a variety of other landuses that maintain the land cover in very early successional stages.
The following tables list New York’s grassland birds along with their ranking as determined by several conservation initiatives, as well as the trend data for their populations as provided by the Breeding Bird Survey.
Grassland management for private landowners and farms
Private landowners are the key to conserving the remaining populations of grassland birds in New York. Audubon New York's Grassland Bird Program has prepared a simple fact-sheet that provides tips for managing grassland habitat (click on the link below). Please share it with anyone that owns grasslands in New York!
Additional grassland bird habitat management resources from Cornell University Cooperative Extension
The three brochures found below were prepared by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County New York. They provide valuable insight on the management of working fields for grassland bird conservation. For questions or permissions regarding the Cornell documents please contact Jim Ochterski at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County NY. 585-394-3977 x402 or email.
Conservation Planning for Grassland Birds
The New York Grassland Bird Partnership has developed a Conservation Plan for Grassland Birds in New York. Click here to download this plan.
The document includes objectives and strategies for stabilizing the declining trends for populations of grassland breeding birds, as well as habitat management guidelines and other resources to assist anyone interested in maintaining and providing grassland habitat.