Every December, thousands of volunteers throughout North America take part in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. For more than 100 years, the census data has allowed researchers, conservation biologists, and wildlife agencies to study the long-term health and status of bird populations and help guide conservation action.
This holiday season, we highlight bird conservation research funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) being conducted by Land-grant universities:
Fire management in the Flint Hills Region of Oklahoma and Kansas is not compatible with greater prairie-chicken conservation. On cooperating ranches, the fire and grazing management has been altered based on Oklahoma State University's research findings. Greater prairie-chicken numbers have more than doubled due to changes in management, and livestock gains have been maintained. Learn more about this research funded by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
The degradation of grasslands has been detrimental for grassland birds, which are declining faster than any other bird group in North America. Grassland birds are sensitive to extreme weather, which can significantly reduce nesting success. Weather impacts on grassland birds is most severe in small grassland patches, a possible result of altered microclimates. At the University of Wisconsin, researchers are studying grassland microclimates to evaluate the importance of microclimatic buffering in the nesting biology of grassland birds. Conservation agencies are searching for meaningful actions to help manage natural resources in a changing climate, and this Hatch-funded research explores the role of climate-change adaptation for grassland conservation.
Tree swallows are experiencing rapid population declines throughout the Northeast. Tree swallows provide valuable services to New York residents and agricultural operations through natural insect control. Breeding swallows eat up to 2,000 insects per day per bird--or approximately 100 billion insects annually. Cornell University researchers are intensively monitoring tree swallows in central New York to determine when they show signs of physiological stress and what causes it. By providing insight into when and why tree swallows are experiencing stress, this Hatch-funded research could ultimately help to mitigate or even reverse population declines of this important species.