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Prairie bird populations plummet by 57%, report suggests

Since 1970, grassland bird populations that live on the prairies have declined by 57 per cent, according to the report from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

Species that rely on native grasslands have seen an even more dramatic drop at 87%

A sharp-tailed grouse is just one of the many species of bird that call the Prairies home. (Cam Barlow)

Canada's grassland birds are disappearing and time is running out to save them, according to a new report

Since 1970, grassland bird populations that live on the Prairies have declined by 57 per cent, according to the report from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

For those birds that are tolerant of agriculture, the decline has been somewhat blunted, with a decrease of 37 per cent, while birds who rely on native fescue grasses have plummeted by 87 per cent.

"In the last decade, 80 per cent of bird species newly assessed as threatened or endangered in Canada have been aerial insectivores or grassland birds," reads the report. 

Conservation efforts

Waterfowl and birds of prey, by contrast have been recovering, with populations soaring after many species danced with extinction.

The organization credits conservation efforts and banning the pesticide DDT for those recoveries. 

"One of the biggest issues overall is habitat loss for all the species. If the birds have nowhere to live, they're not going to be able to survive, they're not going to be able to nest and have babies and have more birds," said Jamee Dupont Morozoff with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, part of the coalition that makes up North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

The report says that in order to reverse or prevent the steep declines, native grasslands need to be protected and replaced, sustainable range-fed beef needs to be encouraged, alternatives to broad-scale pesticide use need to be applied and action is needed to address the causes of climate change. 

The North American Bird Conservation Initiative is a coalition of governments, non-governmental organizations and industry organizations, including the Nature Conservancy.

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