Background Sources and ongoing projects
This website summarizes the experiences of others who have undertaken research and conducted programs intended to balance the needs of grassland birds and the needs of hay farmers. Key background sources are listed below.
Natural Resources Conservation Program Maryland (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/md/home/) Incentives to adjust mowing schedules to benefit grassland birds are available from the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program).
Atwood, J. et al, “Best Management Practices for Nesting Grassland Birds”, 2017, Mass Audubon, Lincoln, Massachusetts. https://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/bird-conservation-monitoring/grassland-birds. This is a clear and concise pamphlet for managers of public lands that uses illustrations of different farm management techniques to minimize the disturbance of nesting grassland species in New England.
Cornell University Cooperative Extension, “Enhancing Pastures for Grassland Bird Habitat”, Prepared by Jim Ochterski, January 2005. While this monograph focuses on pasture rather than hayfield management in New York, many of its recommendations apply to bird-friendly hayfield management on any farm in the Eastern states.
Cornell University Cooperative Extension, “Hayfield Management and Grassland Bird Conservation”, Prepared by Jim Ochterski, January 2006. New York focus on strategies to align farmer needs with the needs of grassland birds.
Ellison, W.G., ed., 2d Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia, The Maryland Ornithological Society and The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. pp 384-85 (Grasshopper Sparrow), 416-17 (Eastern Meadowlark).
Gruntorad, M.P. et al, “Is Hay for the Birds? Investigating Landowner Willingness to Time Hay Harvests for Grassland Bird Conservation”, article in Animals, 5 April 2021. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041030. Survey of landowners in the Great Plains found that a majority (60%) of respondents expressed willingness to delay harvesting hay to allow birds time to nest successfully.”
Hull, S.D. 2000 (revised 2002). “Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Eastern Meadowlark”, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND. 35 pp. Downloadable at https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/empgb/. A useful synthesis of literature up to 2002, but with a strong regional focus on the Midwest and Dakotas.
Iliff, M.J., Ringler, R.F., and Stasz, J.L., Field List of the Birds of Maryland, Maryland Ornithological Society, Third Edition, 1996, downloadable at https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/119538#/summary
Perlut, N., “Management Considerations for Grassland Birds in Northeastern Haylands and Pasturelands”, NRCS Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center, June 2010. https://www.bobolinkproject.com/docs/NRCS_Grassland_leaflet.pdf.
An excellent summary of timing strategies to promote grassland bird breeding success in Vermont, including the notable NRCS Vermont adaptation of the EQIP program such that farmers could receive a $135 per acre incentive payment (as of 2010) if the first mowing occurred early and the second mowing occurred no less than 65 days later.
Perlut, N. et al, “A Model for Integrating Wildlife Science and Agri-Environmental Policy in the Conservation of Declining Species”, The Journal of Wildlife Management 75(7):1657-1663, 2011. https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jwmg.199. Detailed description of the innovative use of EQIP by the NRCS in Vermont to demonstrate the beneficial impact of early mowing followed by a 65-day delay to second mowing. Bobolink reproductive rates improved from 0.0 to 2.8 fledglings per female per year.
Peterjohn, B. May 2006. “Conceptual Ecological Model for Management of Breeding Grassland Birds in the Mid-Atlantic Region”. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2006/005. National Park Service. Philadelphia, PA. 56 pp. This is a thorough and informative review of management strategies for publicly-owned land with grasslands suitable for grassland birds.
Robbins, C.S, ed., and Blom, E.A.T., “Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia”, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996. pp 398-99 (Grasshopper Sparrow), 416-17 (Eastern Meadowlark).
Strong, A. and Perlut, N., “Delay Hay Cuttings to Allow Birds to Successfully Fledge Young”, NRCS Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_010033.pdf. A summary of the impact of hay cutting timing on the breeding success of Savannah Sparrows and Bobolinks in Vermont.
Virginia Working Landscapes, “Field Management Guidelines for Virginia’s Grassland and Shrubland Birds”, https://www.vaworkinglandscapes.org/. A clearly-presented guide intended for landowners who are interested in helping grassland birds and have some flexibility in their management approaches. “Even just choosing to implement one of the practices listed below can have a positive impact.”
Ongoing Projects To Balance Hay Mowing And Grassland Bird Protection
Ag Allies, a project of the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District, Somerset County, Maine, under the direction of Laura Suomi-Lecker. “We seek to empower landowners to make sustainable bird-friendly management changes on their land and improve the opportunity for nesting success of grassland birds.”
The Bobolink Project, a project of Mass Audubon, Audubon Vermont and New Hampshire Audubon. Over 10 years, private donors have funded an auction that now supports the protection of over 1000 acres. Hay farmers bid to receive payments to compensate them for losses associated with delaying haying to allow grassland birds to breed.
Brandywine Conservancy, a land trust in Pennsylvania that includes a focus on adapting the timing of haying to the breeding requirements of grassland birds.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Credit Valley Conservation. “Bird-Friendly Certified Hay” programs. This is an innovative market-based approach which seeks to match landowners with hay buyers to facilitate “Bird-Friendly Certified Hay” – No mowing between May 1 and July 15.
Vermont Center for Ecostudies, has initiated the New England Grassland Ambassadors program, which helps landowners identify strongholds of grassland bird habitat and enlists willing landowners to enhance that habitat in economically feasible ways.
Virginia Working Landscapes, a program of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA. Under the direction of Amy Johnson, VWL has built up a strong outreach program that communicates research findings to inform best management practices for landowners and conservation partners.