Each summer, Maine’s hayfields are filled with the bubbly song of the Bobolink, a migratory grassland bird that nests on the ground of agricultural fields. These small blackbirds are remarkable for many reasons, including their unique plumage resembling a backwards tuxedo with a bright yellow cap, and their impressive migration of 12,500 miles each year. Unfortunately, Bobolinks and other grassland species are in grave danger primarily due to habitat loss and intensified agriculture. Since 1966, Bobolinks have faced a cumulative decline of 65%. To stabilize and ultimately reverse this trend, protecting Bobolinks and their habitat during breeding season is particularly important. Together, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and Ag Allies, are working to protect Maine’s grassland birds one field at a time.
Because grassland birds nest in active agricultural fields, they depend on farming and the habitat it creates. However, disruption by farming equipment, grazing livestock, or humans during the breeding season results in nests being destroyed, contributing to population decline. While managing hayfields for both commercial harvesting and for grassland bird conservation appears to be complex, it can be both practical and productive, benefitting birds and farmers alike.
“Given the conservation needs of our grassland birds, owners and managers of fields with even one or two nesting pairs can make a significant difference by preserving some habitat through the nesting season”, says Ag Allies Program Manager, Laura Lecker, “This new partnership between KELT and Ag Allies aims to help farmers do just that.”
Thanks to generous funding from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, next spring KELT and Ag Allies will be providing technical and financial support to farmers and landowners interested in protecting Bobolinks and other grassland birds. This collaboration will provide resources and guidance for preserving nesting habitat in hayed and grazed fields, improving soil and field quality, managing invasive species, and more. If you own or manage property that supports grassland birds, or to learn more about Ag Allies, contact Maeve at email@example.com or Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates to come in spring of 2022.