Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Grassland Birds:

There are many best management practices that landowners and producers can implement onto their landscapes that benefit grassland birds.

Keep in mind that these BMPs go well beyond conserving grassland birds! They create diverse and healthy habitats that benefit native beneficial insects, pollinators, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals while enriching soil health and improving water quality.

High-priority BMP’s for protecting nesting grassland birds in the spring:

  • Delayed haying: The first cutting of hay (or mowing/clipping fields) is delayed until July 1. 
  • Summer pasture stockpiling: Livestock are rotated out of fields that experience higher levels of use by grassland birds from April 15 to July 1.

If you are already implementing either or both of these practices on your landscape, we want to know about it! Please take a few minutes to fill out this form so that we can better track the amount of local acreage that is suitable for grassland bird nesting. VGBI offers a seasonal, time-limited financial incentives program for delayed haying and summer pasture stockpiling; learn more.

Additional BMPs that benefit grassland birds:

Raise the blade

Raise machinery cutting blades to 8 inches, or as high as possible, when cutting fields. This practice is best intended for landowners and producers clipping livestock pastures or bush-hogging fields to maintain grassland habitat.

Add a flushing bar

Flushing bars (a horizontal bar with dangling chains) can be added to tractors if you hay/mow/clip during the nesting season to reduce adult and juvenile grassland bird mortality.

Plant native warm season grasses (NWSGs)

NWSGs can be used for livestock forage, hay, or as a field or riparian buffer. These grasses are deep-rooted, resulting in higher drought resistance, carbon sequestered deeper into the ground, and more organic material added into the soil.

Plant native wildflowers

Plant native shrubs and trees as hedgerows and windbreaks

Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides

Insecticides and rodenticides are particularly harmful as birds are likely to ingest them directly.

Install nest-boxes for a variety of cavity-nesting birds

Leave dead snags standing

Standing dead trees, called snags, provide birds with shelter to raise their young. If trees are not a safety hazard, leave them be.

Install native riparian buffers

Plant trees and shrubs along wet drainages, vernal pools, pond and streams.

Exclude livestock from all riparian areas

Manage invasive species

Invasive plant species can out-compete native species that birds rely on for food and create monocultures. 

Keep all cats indoors

Free-roaming cats are one of the most significant threats to wildlife, killing an estimated 2.4 billion birds in the United States every year.

Transition to non-lead ammunition

Over 75 species of birds in the U.S. are documented to be poisoned by spent lead ammunition.

Upgrade your outdoor lighting to be Dark Sky compliant

Non-compliant lighting can attract and disorient birds during migration seasons.

Leave dead foliage to overwinter

Dead leaves, stems and other vegetative materials provide cover and seeds for birds during harsh winter months.

We encourage landowners to amplify these practices by collaborating with neighbors to extend BMPs across property lines.