Agriculture & Birds

An Eastern Meadowlark nest is barely visible among the stubble of the corn field in the foreground.

Grassland Bird Population Dynamics in an Agricultural Landscape

State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) is an extension of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Unlike other practices within the CRP, which often have a soil erosion or water quality emphasis and are available statewide, SAFE is intended to address priority wildlife conservation issues, and only lands in certain focus areas are eligible for enrollment in SAFE and its special incentives. While SAFE is a USDA program, in Illinois the guidelines for SAFE were developed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy, and Illinois Audubon Society to achieve the goals of the Farmland & Prairie Campaign from the Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan.

We are conducting several studies in association with this program:
1) We are monitoring SAFE sites and areas to determine how the addition of these grasslands improves the grassland bird community.
2) We are investigating the cues used by Grasshopper Sparrows when selecting breeding sites. (J. Andrews MS project)
3) We are investigating nesting success of birds in no-till and tilled soybean field. (K. VanBeek MS project)

Stopover Ecology of Golden-plovers

We are collaborating with Ben O’Neil (Franklin College, IN), Mark Alessi (INHS), T.J. Benson (INHS), and Jill Deppe (EIU) to investigate the stopover ecology of American Golden-plovers. These birds breed in the tundra and winter in South America, but spend at least a couple weeks in Illinois. We are investigating their behavior while in Illinois. This research is supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. More information can be found in the document below.