Date: 6/9/19 11:30 am
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
We didn’t see or hear Grasshopper sparrows during yesterday’s quick pass through old Prairie Township at Hindsville, in Madison County. I went back this morning to look a little closer and found several. It’s not a common bird anywhere in Arkansas, but overall Hindsville has been consistent. Like the rest of northwest Arkansas, Prairie Township is being urbanized. A once more extensive Tallgrass Prairie long ago dedicated to farmland steadily shrinks. That said, there remains a block of mostly pasture-hayfields of around 4 square miles, give or take. This is all private land. Access is limited to a few edges fronting public roads.

These are beautiful birds, well worth just going out for a look. Like so many obligate grassland species (not just birds, either), they are declining range wide. Breeding Bird Survey data analyzed for 1966-1994 showed annual declines of -5.9% to -2.9% depending upon region. According to Birds of North America online, “Declines due to loss of habitat, conversion of pasture to intensive row crops, and inhibition of fire.” Frequently overlooked Grasshopper Sparrow may be suitable poster “boy” for many questions that bedevil our society. We have many obvious human needs, including farming and energy development. Not so obvious, need for full range of life that made our extensive North American grasslands one of Earth’s greatest treasures – including Grasshopper Sparrows.

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