Grassland Bird Identification Quiz
Birds in the grass? Yep!
Did you know that not all songbirds nest in trees and shrubs? That's right -- there are plenty of songbird species that nest on the ground in grassland habitat.
Last year, I had the pleasure of working on a grassland breeding bird project for an ENTIRE summer! The study was located on a wildlife management area right here in Upstate New York (yes, an unlikely spot for a grassland). I helped band birds and was even able to peek into a couple of nests that we found! Pretty cool stuff for a bird nerd like me.
This is a quiz with several of the most commonly seen grassland birds in the Northeast and Midwest. I saw many of these birds on a daily basis. The purpose of this quiz is to introduce you to some grassland birds that you might not have seen before. How many of these amazing birds can you name? I have placed a key with information on each species after the quiz.
Grassland birds are in trouble! Many of these species are declining due to land-use changes in the Northeast and Midwest. You see, many natural grasslands have disappeared, so today these birds nest in pastureland and agricultural fields. Unfortunately, agriculture is in serious decline in the Northeast and Midwest-- meaning less available open habitat for these birds. Not all grasslands are created equal - some of these birds have breeding habitat preferences that also put them at risk.
Do you enjoy watching birds?
Are you a birdwatcher?
Have you ever seen birds in a grassland or field?
Begin Grassland Bird Quiz!
Image credit: Maia C. via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Matthew Paulson via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Claudio Dias Timm via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Kelly Colgan Azar via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Joseph F. Pescatore via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Bill Bouton via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Ken Schneider via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image credit: Len Blumin via Flickr Creative Commons.
What did you learn?
My goal was to introduce you to some grassland birds that you did not know about, how did I do?
Were there many new birds for you in this quiz?
These are in order of appearance. Please click on the bird name for more information about each species.
- Red-Winged Blackbird. Usually associated with wetlands, these charismatic blackbirds are a common sight at grasslands as well. They prefer cool-season grasses which are denser and less likely to appeal to other grassland birds like sparrows. Females hang their nests from the grasses.
- Eastern Meadowlark. The whistle-like song of the Eastern Meadowlark is a welcome sound across farms and grasslands in Eastern North America. A similar species, the Western Meadowlark is found in the west. Males have a striking bright yellow breast and belly.
- Upland Sandpiper. Sandpipers usually nest near water, but this species is truly a shorebird of grasslands! A large bird with a distinct profile, these birds forage on the ground for a variety of insects. In several northeastern states, upland sandpipers nest on the grounds of airports. They spend most of the year in South America.
- Bobolink. The clowns of the grassland - males spend all summer pursuing females and filling the air with their robotic-sounding chatter. Females are very drab and quiet in comparison, busy feeding their young and foraging for insects on the ground. This species spends the winter in South America.
- Savannah Sparrow. Easy to spot - the males usually perch on little dead branches to sing. They look similar to a song sparrow, but are smaller and usually have distinct yellow lores or head feathers. These sparrows prefer a less dense grassland, usually warm-season grasses and defend small territories within a grassland. They are quite territorial.
- Grasshopper Sparrow. These sparrows have less streaking on the breast and also lack the yellow lores of the savannah sparrow. They are named after their insect-like song, which is heard most at dawn.
- Henslow's Sparrow. A very inconspicuous sparrow, they are uncommon and prefer weedy grasslands of the east-central US. The song of these birds is very short and difficult to hear unless you are listening for it. Winters in the southern US.
- Lark Sparrow. The lark sparrow has distinct, bold head markings and is a conspicuous sparrow of farms and roadsides in the midwest. These sparrows have unusual courtship displays and are quite unique, the only species in its genus.
Why are grassland birds declining?
Factors responsible for the decline of grassland bird populations are not entirely understood, but are believed to be a combination of loss and degradation of grassland habitat, reproductive failure because of high rates of nest predation and parasitism, and shifts in agricultural practices, such as earlier and more frequent cutting of hayfields. Each species has a unique set of habitat requirements consisting of area and vegetation composition and structure (USGS).
~*Squid Angel Blessed*~