Making Room for Grassland Birds, Supporting Local Farms

Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) are an iconic sight each spring in the fields and meadows of Maine. In addition to being a delight to see and hear, bobolinks and other grassland birds are true agricultural allies to central Maine farmers as these birds consume large quantities of both insect and weed pests each growing season.  Unfortunately, the population of these and other grassland birds is in a continuing steady and sharp decline, according to the State of the Birds 2014 report.  Habitat loss is the main reason for these declines.   In addition, early and mid-season cutting of agricultural grasslands has catastrophic impacts on nesting success of birds using these habitats. Here in Maine, hayfields, particularly those used for high protein dairy cow forage, are cut once and sometimes twice during the grassland bird nesting timeframe.  This cutting during the nesting period results in total nestling failure.

With this project, we aim to help interested farmers adopt a hayland management regime that allows for some grassland bird nesting space and to increase public understanding and awareness of this issue.    

In addition, we are hopeful that as some farms make shifts in their hayland management practices, the public will support these changes in part by buying their “bobolink friendly” hay (as appropriate) and continuing to support programs that help make grassland bird consideration economically feasible for farmers, which will allow these considerations to become a permanent part of their farm management plans.