Monday, June 23, 2014

Henslow’s Sparrow

This Henslow’s Sparrow, which Erika and I found in Carleton College’s restored prairie on 20 June 2014. This bird is a bit odd, since Henslow’s Sparrows are supposed to have ochre-washed breasts. Nevertheless, the wing color and the sides of the face are what you would expect of a Henslow’s. The bird was also singing a perfect rendition of a Henslow’s Sparrow’s song, described in Herket et al. (2002) as a “feeble hiccup.”
Henslow’s Sparrows have declined during the last 50 years. In the last 30 years, populations have declined by about 7.5% annually, the biggest drop for any grassland bird in North America (Herket et al. 2002). The loss and degradation of our native prairies seems to be responsible. It is remarkable and heartwarming that Henslow’s Sparrows have returned to the Carleton prairie. Restoration of this tallgrass prairie began in 1978. Plants are usually from local sources and maintained by regular controlled burns. Seeds from these forbs are being used to restore other Minnesota prairies. Carleton’s goal is an 140-acre grassland.
P.S.: Doug Johnson writes "You mentioned that Henslow's have been declining dramatically. That was true until CRP took hold. Now BBS indices have about returned to early levels. What HAS happened is that they shifted their range from eastern prairies to midwestern grasslands, largely I believe due to CRP.( Hate to see what will happen as CRP continues to fade from the landscape.”

1 comment:

  1. I accompanied a Carleton reunion group on a bird walk on Saturday morning and was pleased to be able to find the Henslow's for them -- in fact, we think we had two -- and we have been hearing one at McKnight, too. This is a heartening indeed.