Prairie birds on a major decline

According to the recently released State of Canada's Birds report, grassland bird populations are declining rapidly in the country's prairie region. Bird enthusiasts all over Canada have noticed this decline said Hatter Phil Horch, a longtime birder and Grasslands Naturalists member. "We're seeing tremendous decline in some species," he said – and this includes local populations. "There are some species that get a lot of publicity like burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) and sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and so on, and definitely they are in decline," he said. "But species that a lot of people aren't familiar with are declining as well." There has been loss or degradation of native grasslands and pasture lands through agriculture, such as conversion to "grains, oilseed or fibre crops which provide poor habitat for most birds."

"It's an indicator of the health of the prairies as a whole," said Marty Drut, also with the Grasslands Naturalists - as plants, insects, mammals and other prairie species are also considered at risk. "It's an indication of how we've been treating the environment and how these species are responding to our long-term care of the environment."

Source: Medicine Hat News, 4th July 2012…