Grassland birds in New England and the rest of North America have experienced substantial declines—likely due to habitat loss derived from reforestation (especially in New England) and the intensification of agricultural practices.
To better document the distribution of grassland birds across the six New England states and New York, Mass Audubon surveyed 1,145 grassland sites (e.g., hayfields, pastures, and municipal airports) in the late 1990s. Observers netted >10,000 observations of grassland birds, including Northern Harriers, Bobolinks, and Savannah Sparrows—a monumental surveying effort. In 2014-2015 VCE, Mass Audubon, and the University of Delaware organized a resurveying effort at 495 of those grassland sites across New England. Our goals were twofold: to understand how grassland bird distributions have changed in our region since the 1990s and to connect with grassland landowners to discuss opportunities for grassland bird conservation on their properties.
The analysis of the 2014-2015 data is still underway, but observers detected thousands of grassland birds and conducted 1,356 point counts in 2015 alone. Technicians also met with hundreds of grassland landowners to discuss opportunities for grassland bird conservation and management actions on their properties. Our efforts in 2015 represent the most comprehensive survey of grassland birds across New England since the 1990s. These extensive surveys will enable us to monitor future changes in the grassland bird populations of New England. Stay tuned for future results and updates.