Grassland Bird Conservation Project for the Rice Lake Plains and Ganaraska Hills region of Northumberland County

Grassland bird populations are in serious decline across eastern North America. The rolling grasslands, farmlands and open habitats of the Rice Lake Plains and Ganaraska Hills are home to many of these species. Grassland birds include familiar species such as the Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Barn Swallow, as well as the lesser known Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow, and the Savannah Sparrow (the bird featured in our logo on our homepage).

These birds use a variety of fields and open habitats for nesting and feeding. The natural tallgrass prairie and oak savanna habitats of the area would have had large populations of these birds, but many of those habitats are gone or degraded. Partners in the Rice Lake Plains project are committed to conserving and restoring habitats for grassland birds and other wildlife in Northumberland County. This involves land conservation with willing landowners and active habitat stewardship to prevent further habitat loss.

The Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative (RLPJI) partners and Trent University are entering the second year of a two-year project to study and conserve grassland birds in Rice Lake Plains and Ganaraska Hills areas of Northumberland County. We are focusing on species at risk such as Bobolink, Whip-poor-will and Red-headed Woodpecker, but will study all birds of our grasslands, fields, croplands, native tallgrass prairie and oak savanna.

Bobolink. Photo by Bronwyn Salmon

The project will include bird surveys along roadsides and on conservation lands, landowner contact, and habitat restoration projects. Habitat restoration, including non-native species removal, will occur on conservation lands, but may also take place on private lands at the request of willing landowners. Services for landowners will also include free property visits, workshops and printed materials. Our aim is to work with landowners to better understand local bird ecology and to help develop best management practices for grassland bird habitat in the area.

"How much do Bobolinks and other grassland birds use non-farm habitats?"

Tallgrass prairie and oak savannah habitats are very rare today. In fact, less than 1% of this native habitat still remains, making it one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. Many of the grassland birds that depended on those original habitats have come to rely on agricultural fields, pastures and other grasslands managed by people.

Red-headed Woodpecker.
Photo by Barbara Frei

We want to learn more about how grassland birds use habitats on non-farm and conservation properties. To do this we have to examine the birds on all potential grassland habitats. If you have grassland habitat and would like to be included in the study, please contact us. We would very much appreciate hearing from you. Government agencies have designated some of these birds as Endangered and Threatened species (also known as Species at Risk). For more information, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources or visit: the provincial Species at Risk website:

Project Partners

The partners would like to thank the Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk for support of this and other wildlife projects in the Rice Lake Plains.

For more information on this project please contact:

Rice Lake Plains Outreach Coordinator

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