A variety of best management practices can be employed on a working farm to provide bird habitat. Each farm is unique and may employ different strategies to provide habitat for birds.

Examples include:

  • reducing stocking rates of grazing animals

  • providing refuge areas for nesting and foraging birds

  • manipulating hay harvest dates to accommodate bird activity

  • keeping fence lines clear of brush and trees


Other ways to help birds:

  • Plant native grasses! Even if it’s just a small patch, more grass on the ground will help provide birds with habitat during the breeding season and migration. They also help sequester carbon – which will have a global impact!

  • Support policies and programs that help grasslands

  • Keep cats inside. Migration is hard enough with- out extra predators out on the hunt!

  • Use the free ebird app for iOS and Android, to record your bird sightings and share them with scientists. Real research has been done using data collected by birders.

  • “Learn a bird” every day!Visit the website for educational tools for youth and adults interested in birds.


Wisconsin grassland bird populations are in steep decline. Many of these species, like the bobolink and eastern meadowlark, nest on the ground therefore are vulnerable to grazing cattle and mower blades. Livestock producers can take steps to improve nest success in pastures and hay fields!

Grassland Bird nests are vulnerable from April 25 to August 1
Best practices to improve nest success during this time include:

Rotational or Continuous Grazing + Hay

  • Create unharvested nesting refuge:

  • Away from woods or hedgerows

  • As large as possible (20-30% of pasture area is ideal)

  • Don’t harvest until August 1

  • Harvest hay or graze after August 1 —> expect some yield loss

Continuous Grazing

  • Use low stocking rate, ideally ≤ 0.5 head/acre (1 head = 1,000 lbs)

  • Rotational Grazing

  • Rotate to next paddock when pasture plant height (residual) is 8+ inches

  • Use long rest interval between grazing events, ideally 40+ days (to allow for a complete a nesting cycle)

  • Graze every other paddock to ensure some protective cover near nests

Information from Grassland Birds: Fostering Habitat Using Rotational Grazing in the UW Extension Learning Store Laura Judge,


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Farming with Grassland Birds:
Guide to Making Your Hay
and Pasture Bird Friendly


Maintaining a viable forage or grazing program that considers the needs of both birds and livestock producers is critical. Otherwise, there are two likely alternatives: the land will be converted to annual row crops, or abandoned and overtaken by shrubs and trees, resulting in lost habitat. Finding a system that allows for coexistence is the most desirable outcome for farmers and grassland birds.

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Continuous Living Cover
Manual- Green Lands, Blue Waters

Continuous Living Cover is a process and a goal to achieve within agricultural systems. Even modest steps toward implementing year‐round cover can have larger‐than‐expected benefits in terms of reduction of erosion and nutrient loss, improvement in soil health, improvement of water quality, and reduction in purchased farm inputs.


Native Prairie Hay Meadows: A Landowner’s Management Guide by The Kansas Natural Heritage Inventory

In this booklet, you will find information about  managing, restoring, and preserving native prairies. It is written for the broadest possible audience, from those who have recently purchased or inherited their land, to those who have spent their lifetimes working and enjoying their prairies.

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Grassland Birds
Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management

This leaflet is designed to serve as an introduction to the habitat requirements of grassland birds and to assist landowners and managers Western meadowlark in developing comprehensive grassland bird management plans for their properties. The success of grassland bird management in a given area requires that managers consider the present habitat conditions in the area and the surrounding landscape and identify management actions to enhance habitat quality for local grassland birds.

Grassland Bird - Rotational Grazing publ

Agricultural Practices that Conserve Grassland Birds -
Daria Hyde and Suzan Campbell - Michigan Natural Features Inventory &
Michigan State University Extension

This guide will provide an overview of Michigan’s grasslands and the diversity of habitats they provide to birds; discuss serious challenges faced by grassland birds; describe agricultural practices that can be adopted to improve grassland bird habitat; share experiences from farmers that have used these methods and provide a list of programs that offer resources to those that want to learn more.

Grassland Birds: Fostering Habitats Using Rotational Grazing

Over 40 species of grassland birds breed in Wisconsin, In the last 30 years this group of birds has declined more than any other group of birds in North America and is most in need of help.Continuous Living Cover is a process and a goal to achieve within agricultural systems. Even modest steps toward implementing year‐round cover can have larger‐than‐expected benefits in terms of reduction of erosion and nutrient loss, improvement in soil health, improvement of water quality, and reduction in purchased farm inputs.

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Natural Resources  Conservation Service Conservation Practice Standard for Pasture and Hay Planting

Establishing adapted and compatible species, varieties, or cultivars of herbaceous plants suitable for pasture or hay production.

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Green Grazing

Why the Nature Conservancy and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are using cows to improve wildlife habitat By Tom Dickson

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Ring-neck Pheasant Habitat Requirements

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Managing Habitat for Grassland Birds: A Guide for Wisconsin - By David W. Sample, Michael J. Mossman · 1997

The book describes habitat requirements and landscapes for all Wisconsin grassland birds. Available through Amazon.

grass is good

For more information contact Cindy Becker, 

Southern Driftless Grasslands Coordinator, 

(608) 930-3252 or email at

Driftless Area Land Conservancy is an accredited non-profit land trust in Southwest Wisconsin. All images and text on this site are property of Driftless Area Land Conservancy and/or are being used with permission from the authors and photographers. Please do not share or distribute text, images or any site content without expressed, written permission.


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