Grassland birds in population freefall


Spring is springing, and our meadows are ringing with the sweet song of lusty meadowlarks.  But no matter what idyllic prairie moments I might enjoy in the field over the next few months, one disturbing fact remains:  North American grasslands are imperiled and impoverished landscapes.

 
If you visit the Partners in Flight Species Assessment Database you can sort the list of North American birds by the various columns. One is CBSD or “Common Birds in Steep Decline.” There look to be 34 species that met the criteria for that designation. Topping the list is the most rapidly declining species in the US, Northern Bobwhite (a quail that is still a very popular game bird where it remains common). If you are familiar with these species one thing jumps out at you from this list: grassland birds are in trouble. Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike – I counted 11 of the 34 that are grassland specialists. The remaining species on the list do not organize so obviously around one land cover type. Our grasslands need help.
 
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For how much longer will the Grasshopper Sparrow’s buzz punctuate summer mornings on our prairies?
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