Grassland birds rapidly declining in North America


A major new report assessing bird populations in North America reveals that grassland specialists are among the fastest-declining species, with a combined 34% loss since 1970.

Published in November by 33 leading science and conservation organisations and agencies, the State of the Birds 2022 report identifies 70 'Tipping Point' species that have each lost 50% or more of their populations in the past 50 years, and are on a track to lose another half in the next 50 years if nothing changes. Among the grassland birds listed are Bobolink, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Greater Sage Grouse, Henslow's Sparrow, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Mountain Plover, and Sprague's Pipit.

Bobolink is among the grassland species undergoing rapid declines in the USA (Colin Bradshaw).

In addition to the 'Tipping Point' birds, the report includes 20 additional 'On Alert' species that have lost half their populations in the past 50 years. Grassland species in this category include Baird's Sparrow and Thick-billed Longspur.

The State of the Birds 2022 report does contain a glimmer of hope: birds are declining overall in every habitat except in wetlands, where decades of investment have resulted in dramatic gains, showing the power of funding and policy investments. The report suggests applying this winning formula in more habitats, including grasslands, will help birds and natural resources rebound.

Recognising the need to work at bigger, faster scales, 200 organisations from across seven sectors in Mexico, Canada, the USA and Indigenous Nations are collaborating on a Central Grasslands Roadmap to conserve one of North America's largest and most vital ecosystems: hundreds of millions of hectares of grasslands.

"While this report is about birds, it's important to remember that as key indicator species, birds are telling us about our environment, too," said Chris Wilson, Program Director for Audubon Conservation Ranching. "As grassland birds go, so goes the rural economies and livelihoods that grasslands sustain. We can't disregard that connection."

Explore the State of the Birds 2022 report online here.