Surveys of Grassland Birds at Freshkills Park
Dr. Richard Veit and Dr. Lisa Manne from the College of Staten Island have been conducting a survey at Freshkills Park of the grassland bird diversity and abundance.
Birds that use grasslands, either for breeding, foraging or wintering, have declined dramatically in New York State, and in the Northeastern United States as a whole, due to the disappearance of native grasslands (McGowan, K. and K. Corwin (Eds) 2008. The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State. Cornell University Press). These habitats are now endangered because of their conversion to agricultural fields and housing developments. Therefore, the reclaimed landfill mounds at Freshkills Park provide a unique opportunity to conserve and manage grassland habitats and the birds that use them.
The researchers have surveyed the birds of the grasslands on the Freshkills mounds every year since 1996-1997 as part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts, and are now continuing their survey work throughout the summer season. During that period, they have observed a dramatic increase in the number of wintering Savannah Sparrows, and lesser increases in Horned Larks, Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs.
The project will inform how ecological management of Freshkills Park could lead to effective conservation of grassland habitats and the birds that inhabit them. The park provides a unique opportunity to preserve some of these productive habitats within an intensely urban environment.