Conserving Critical Habitat for NY’s Endangered Grassland Birds

Grasslands are the fastest disappearing habitat in the U.S. and grassland birds are disappearing right along with them! Short-eared owls, Northern harriers, Eastern meadowlarks and Grasshopper sparrows are just a few of the grassland bird species who have seen their populations plummet by 70% – 90% or more!

We need to protect critical habitat in the handful of historic grassland bird breeding and wintering areas across New York State that still provide the large, open expanses of contiguous grassland these birds need to breed, feed and raise their young.

Grassland Bird Trust (GBT) has conserved or helped conserve more than 240 acres of critical habitat in the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) as of May 2019. We currently own and manage 78 acres at the site of our our Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland Bird Viewing Area. We are working to permanently protect more critical lands in the IBA and across New York State for the owls and other at risk grassland birds.

Development pressure is high!

We need to act quickly to conserve hundreds more acres of critical grassland before they are lost forever!

The Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) is critical to the survival of Short-eared Owls in New York State.  Listed as a regional conservation priority in the NYS Open Space Plan, it supports 10 of 11 of the state’s most imperiled grassland birds.*  Yet only 544 acres of a 2,000 acre core area of critical grassland habitat have been protected!  

The Washington County Grasslands supports 10 of 11 species of endangered, threatened and rapidly declining grassland birds listed in the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, including: Short-eared owls (endangered), Northern harriers (threatened), Upland sandpipers (threatened), Horned larks (threatened), Eastern meadowlarks (special concern), American kestrels (special concern), Vesper sparrows, Grasshopper sparrows and Sedge wrens.

The area also supports wintering Snowy owls and Rough-legged hawk, healthy breeding populations of Bobolinks and Savannah sparrows, and more than 100 other bird and mammal species!

Conservation remains our top priority as we work to protect New York’s imperiled grassland birds and restore populations to sustainable levels.