A Partnership to bring grassland birds back

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Grassland birds are in trouble, but you can help!

Birds are in decline - especially in grasslands

A recent study from Cornell University (Rosenberg, 2019) revealed that we've lost nearly 3 billion birds in North America in under 50 years.  Almost 3 billion birds - just gone!  That's roughly 25% of prior populations of all birds. Most concerning was the revelation that grassland birds have lost just over 50% of their population with nearly 75% of species experiencing decline.

We know that in the case of grassland birds, this is due to 3 primary factors: 1) loss of habitat, 2) farm machinery, and 3) pesticides (Stanton, 2018).  Today, farmland occupies much of what used to be prairies and grasslands.  With the industrialization of agriculture, it shouldn't be surprising that when we remove safe places to nest, hide and sources of food, there are fewer places left for birds to live.

Warned more than 50 years ago by Rachel Carson, our spring is finally and literally going silent.

Climate change will make things worse - possibly much worse

A July 2019 Audubon Grasslands Report highlighted how climate change further amplifies the risks to grassland birds into the future across these already degraded regions.

And now, an October 2019 special report "Survival by Degrees" has methodically worked through 389 North American bird species and puts 64% of all birds at risk of extinction due to climate change.  This analysis assessed an array of factors: sea level rise; urbanization; cropland expansion; extreme weather; fire weather; heavy rain; drought; false springs; and lake level changes, for each species in every locale of North America in coming to this deeply concerning conclusion.

Although the report found that arctic (100%), boreal forest (98%) and western forest (86%) birds were most threatened, a very significant 86% of grassland birds were identified as vulnerable, too.

You can explore the threats to species by region and climate scenario using this special Audubon site.

But we can fix this - surprisingly using cows

Before this dismal outlook was fully documented, the National Audubon Society already saw the trend and decided to start acting.  Recognizing that the largest operators of remaining grasslands were cattle ranchers, they created the Audubon Conservation Ranching program to institute protocols that would protect and restore grassland bird habitat.  Ranching that mimics the patterns of romaing bison with dense but short grazing periods followed by long periods of rest diversifies grassland "structure" (high/low grasses), and both plant and animal food resources.  Ranching done with fewer potentially harmful chemicals also helps birds.  Simply said, better grazing creates better habitat for more and diverse birds.

The "Survival by Degrees" report recognized that in addition to restoring bird habitat, regenerating grasslands was a "Natural Climate Solution" that could play a role in mitigating the broader climate change problem (page 58).  That's because grazing done differently also has the potential to store material volumes of carbon in grassland soils - enough to make a significant difference (Teague, 2016).  Grasses are especially good at photosynthesis which takes carbon from the air and water from the soil and turns it into sugar. Grasses share this sugar with soil microbes as 'payment' for nutrients that they mine from the soil and bring to plants.  With dense, permanent roots and diverse plant species that thrive in different seasons, grasslands keep this cycle going longer which leads to an accumulation of carbon-rich organic matter in healthier soil.  Even at modest concentrations, these volumes add up to big numbers across large areas.

So for the difference to matter either for birds or the broader climate, we must scale up.   

So you can help - by choosing better beef with a bigger purpose

Blue Nest Beef is proud to partner with the National Audubon Society to help Audubon Conservation Ranching go big!

When you choose to buy beef from Audubon-certified bird-friendly land, you're playing a vital role in helping bring back grassland birds. You're telling the farmer you care where your food comes form and how it's produced.  When more farmers can make a better living producing beef that does good things for birds we'll get more farmers doing good things for birds.  More cows raised in harmony with their natural grassland ecosystems means more healthy grasslands and therefore more grassland birds.

So now you don't have to be a rancher yourself to actually help grassland birds and mitigate the risks of climate change.  Explore our site to learn more, or just sign up today to get your own box of 100% grassfed beef from Audubon-certified bird friendly land delivered conveniently to your own front door and you will instantly be a key part of the solution.


“My brother asked the birds to forgive him: that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side –a little happier, anyway– and children and all animals, if you yourself were nobler than you are now.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamosov


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