Grassland Birds to Find a Bigger, Better Neighborhood at Canoe Meadows
Michael P. O'Connor
PITTSFIELD, MA—Mass Audubon’s Berkshires Sanctuaries will be working this fall to improve habitat for bobolink and other grassland birds in a field at its Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Pittsfield.
As farms disappear and forests return, the large swaths of hay fields and similar habitats that bobolink require for breeding and raising young continue to shrink in size and number. Bobolink may be the most recognizable—the male’s dark front and underparts are set off by a white back and a striking, straw-colored head patch—but other grassland species in Massachusetts include eastern meadowlark, savannah sparrow, and American kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon.
Many grassland species, including the above, are facing stark declines, according to Mass Audubon’s State of the Birds 2013 and its Breeding Bird Atlas 2. While overall habitat loss is a factor in these declines, research also indicates that even fields of sufficient size, if they are fragmented or interrupted by hedgerows or natural windbreaks, will be passed over by the birds, which may view the linear plantings as cover for predators.
At Canoe Meadows, two fields will be connected to create 60 acres of unbroken grassland this fall by removing a hedgerow of pine trees and invasive species. Volunteers, who have already been removing invasive species, will help seed the newly opened habitat with native grasses and wildflowers.
“We’ve identified Canoe Meadows as one of Mass Audubon’s best opportunities for providing high quality grassland habitat for birds and other wildlife,” said Berkshires Sanctuaries Director Becky Cushing. “Grassland birds are among those in most need of conservation action and they like big fields—the bigger the better.”
The public is invited to an information session about the project and a short guided tour Wednesday, September 28, 5-6:30 p.m., at the Canoe Meadows Pavilion off Williams Street.
Mass Audubon protects 36,500 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts’ largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state’s natural treasures for wildlife and for all people—a vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women. Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 125,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today’s and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at massaudubon.org.