Grassland bird management has been one of TILT’s focus areas for habitat restoration and maintenance on our preserves. A grassland bird is any bird that utilizes grasslands for any part of its life cycle, from nesting to simply feeding. Examples of some grassland birds include Bobolink, Upland Sandpiper and Henslow’s Sparrow.
Grassland bird management can be seen on the Zenda Farms Preserve. Zenda’s rolling grasslands are hayed each year. However, to ensure that nesting, feeding and loafing grassland birds are not killed during the harvesting process, hay is not cut until after the second week in August. This ensures that grassland bird young have fledged and are safely out of the grasslands, beginning their annual journey south.
This same management technique is used on many of the Grindstone Island Preserves. By mowing these properties each year, we are maintaining grasslands, preventing forest succession, and preserving this habitat for grassland birds.
TILT has been managing for grassland birds for nearly 30 years and has made a difference for grassland birds. The 2014 State of the Birds report stated, “Since 1968, the grasslands indicator for 24 obligate breeding birds declined by nearly 40%, but the declining flattened out beginning in 1990. This recent stabilization noted in the 2009 (State of the Birds) report continues today, reflecting the significant investments made in grassland bird conservation.”
Although we have been part of stabilization for these populations, there is still more that needs to be done to get these populations back to their once larger, and healthier populations. TILT will continue to focus on grassland bird management to help support these important species and ensure they are here for the next generation.
To learn more about Grassland Bird Management, visit New York Audubon.
Illustrations by Bob McNamara, The Art of the Wild