As native grasslands have been lost, so have many grassland birds, including the Long-billed Curlew. We’re working with partners from South Dakota to Mexico to restore habitat for the species.
The continued decline of Long-billed Curlew populations over the last two decades has resulted in this species being listed as a conservation focus at every level of government in the United States and Canada. In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the total population of Long-billed Curlews at only 123,400 individuals.
Improving grazing practices and restoring grasslands are key to this species’ future, as well as that of a suite of other birds that depend on grasslands. In our comprehensive conservation strategy, we identified 12 continental primary focal areas for Long-billed Curlew along with best management practices, from appropriate grazing to an emphasis on native grasses.
We’re now cooperating with farmers, ranchers, and government agencies across the North American breeding grounds to implement actions most helpful to breeding curlews and other species of concern, like Chestnut-collared Longspur and Sprague’s Pipit.
Lack of water and habitat degradation due to cattle grazing are key issues in Mexico, where Long-billed Curlews and the increasingly rare Sprague’s Pipit winter. We’re partnering with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and local partners like Pronatura Noreste and La Hediondilla ejido community group to restore critical wintering habitat.
One place where this work is taking flight is El Tokio Grassland Priority Conservation Area, where Long-billed Curlews have been observed in large concentrations. ABC and Pronatura added a 4,500 acre ejido (communal) reserve in 2014, bringing the total number of acres under management to nearly 150,000 acres.
In the Valles Centrales Priority Conservation Area, we are working with ranchers to improve management of grasslands for multiple grassland bird species.
Response to new management practices has been rapid: Grasses are proliferating, including in previously degraded areas, and data from RMBO showed an increase in use of habitat by resident birds in 2014, stemming from an adjustment in cattle grazing intensity and modified rotation periods.
Read more about this exciting progress for grassland birds in Chihuahua, Mexico.