by Carroll Henderson
Populations have stabilized at low levels after decades of
Since 1968, the grasslands indicator for 24 obligate breeding birds declined by nearly 40%, but the decline flattened out beginning in 1990. This recent stabilization noted in the 2009 report continues today, reflecting the significant investments made in grassland bird conservation. Reductions in Farm Bill conservation funding, however, threaten those investments. Eastern grassland birds (such as Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink) have continued a steady and precipitous decline, associated with declines in pasturelands due to changing dairy farming practices and suburban sprawl. A sub-group of shortgrass prairie-nesting birds in the Western Great Plains—including Sprague’s Pipit and McCown’s and Chestnut-collared longspurs—also continue steep declines, which may be driven by large-scale agricultural conversion and overgrazing on their wintering grounds in the Chihuahuan Desert that spans the U.S.–Mexico border.
|Upland Sandpiper by
Rangewide grassland bird conservation depends on conservation provisions in the Farm Bill. For example, Henslow’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper (which benefit from the Conservation Reserve Program and grazing management on working grasslands, respectively) have responded positively to the many millions of grassland acres put back on the land since 1985. Continued support for Farm Bill conservation programs is needed to lock in these gains.