New York State is home to a variety of bird species. Besides information on specific birds and endangered species of birds, the following information and tools are also available:
Breeding Bird Atlas
The Breeding Bird Atlas is a comprehensive, statewide survey that reveals the distribution of breeding birds in New York. Two Breeding Bird Atlas projects have been completed to date, the first from 1980-1985, and the second from 2000-2005. Currently, the third is underway (2020-2024).
Periods of migration are the highest sources of mortality in bird which range from collisions with vehicles, buildings, or power lines; to storms; and exhaustion from a lack of adequate food supply along their routes. Typically weather and fog can cause a flock to fly lower, which leads to collisions, and can include multiple different species. If the weather is bad during migration periods, slow down while driving along heavy migration paths. You can track bird migration forecasts through Cornell's Lab of Ornithology website.
Be Bird Friendly
Every year millions of birds die from collisions with building glass, communication towers, and other human structures. Migrating birds in spring and fall can become disoriented by interior and exterior lighting, which causes them to use much needed energy as they travel north or south during evening darkness. But bright city lights and tall buildings are not the only hazards birds face from structures, nor is it limited to the migration period. Even in rural areas without tall buildings, thousands of birds collide with residential structures because of the transparency of glass windows by day or because of the effects of lighting at night. There are many ways to make buildings "bird friendly," often at little cost through the use of best practices.
New York State has adopted the Lights Out Initiative on agency buildings to reduce dangers to migratory birds. We encourage other property owners to join the effort. Lights Out is a simple concept-commercial and residential property owners and managers reduce night time light pollution by turning off or dimming non-essential lights. This reduces the likelihood of disorientation and impact by birds. Note that exterior security lighting is more bird friendly when directed downward rather than into the sky.
The transparency of glass windows lets light into our homes and businesses making our inside world a little brighter. This same transparency and reflectivity of glass also make it difficult for birds to detect that glass is a solid barrier. They may see the reflection of the outdoors in glass and fly into what they think is open space. Sometimes they see through the glass and think it is safe to pass through and hit the glass.
What You Can Do To Help
- There are many window treatments available to reduce glass transparency or break up the profile of a large opening, both commercially designed and low cost do yourself.
- Implementing bird friendly practices at home, in the community, or in the city does not need to be expensive. We share space with our feathered friends around us!
- For more information, tips and best practices on how to make your building bird friendly, call your Regional DEC Wildlife Office or visit the following helpful links:
Resources for Young Birders
Two resources may be of interest to young people that have a passion for wild birds and their habitats:
Young Birders Network
The Young Birders Network website includes extensive information for young birders around the world. It is primarily geared for ages 12-18. Its aim is to provide resources for young birders to connect and learn, and also to provide adult advocates for young birders the resources to encourage and support.
New York State Young Birders Club
The New York State Young Birders Club provides community, friendship, and fun for young people who have a passion for wild birds and their habitats. This club is for birders in New York State between the ages of 10 and 19, inclusive.
Grassland Bird Habitat Requirements
View the NYSDEC Strategy for Grassland Bird Habitat Management and Conservation 2022-2027 (PDF) - a strategic plan for implementing priority actions for creating, managing, and maintaining grassland bird habitat within New York State.
Habitat loss and degradation have resulted in sharp declines in grassland bird populations in New York since 1966, according to Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data. The net result has been an astounding 80-99% decline in abundance of each species in just four decades.
How much grassland habitat do these species need? The answer to this question is unclear and appears to depend on several other factors such as location, shape, surrounding habitats, and vegetation types, as well as each species' individual needs. However, as a general rule, grasslands need to be at least twenty-five acres in size to offer appropriate habitat for at-risk grassland birds in New York.
Best Management Practices
The following sub-sections provide guidelines for grassland habitat management on all Wildlife Management Areas in NY. For more detailed information and recommendations, see A Plan for Conserving Grassland Birds in New York. In particular, refer to the plan for species-specific habitat requirements and detailed recommendations regarding grassland management and restoration techniques. Please contact DEC directly for guidance on mitigation projects.
The management goal of these BMPs is to maintain the open, grassy conditions necessary for successful breeding by grassland birds and to avoid disturbance to nesting birds. Techniques to be used may include seeding, mowing, and removal of trees, shrubs, and invasive species. Typically, land should be managed for a minimum of 5 years to begin showing benefits for grassland birds. Fields not managed do not remain in a condition suitable for grassland birds for very long.
Target Bird Species
The management recommendations in these BMPs are aimed towards grassland birds-Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Savannah Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, and Vesper Sparrow. Loggerhead Shrike is considered functionally extirpated in New York State. Target birds are those listed as "probably" or "confirmed" breeding in the 2005 Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) Block where the subject field is located. Birds registered in BBA blocks adjacent to the block where the field is located could colonize the subject field once the habitat becomes suitable for them.
General Management Recommendations
- Target management for grassland bird species known to be in the vicinity and consider the needs of both breeding and wintering grassland bird species.
- Consider the surrounding landscape when making management decisions.
- Conduct baseline grassland bird surveys on newly acquired fields or fields targeted for management changes to determine which species are present.
- Increase field size by hedgerow removal, removing trees, etc. to benefit species that require large, open fields.
- Control invasive plant species (glossy buckthorn, pale and black swallowwort, Canada thistle, Phragmites, etc.) to improve habitat quality.
- When developing grassland planting or habitat restoration projects, consider a variety of factors including the targeted grassland bird species, pollinators, seed mix (warm versus cool season grasses, forbs, wildflower mixes, grass height and density), timing of planting, existing site conditions, and vegetation removal techniques (including herbicide and intensive disking).
- Utilize mowing, haying, burning, and grazing for maintaining grassland habitat, after evaluating the appropriateness of these methods relative to site conditions and management objectives. In particular, burning cool season grasses is not advisable in most situations in New York.
Timing of Management
- Fields over 25 acres (including all contiguous fields) and fields of any size with a history of listed grassland bird species (federally listed and/or state Endangered (E)/Threatened (T) or Special concern (SC) within the last 10 years:
- Avoid mowing or conducting other management between April 23 and August 15, unless the field(s)/area(s) targeted for management are first assessed or surveyed to confirm there is no active nesting by E/T/SC grassland birds and the proposed management will provide long-term benefits to the habitat/wildlife (such as invasive species management). In some cases, if nesting locations can be avoided, such as using spot treatment for invasive species, work can be done as long as any negative impacts to the species of concern are eliminated.
- Fields under 25 acres (including all contiguous fields) with no history of listed species:
- Fields can be managed/mowed between April 23 and August 15 to accomplish other goals and priorities that benefit other species that use the habitat. If early management is proposed, then the habitat requirements and nesting periods of other species should be considered (e.g., nesting waterfowl, American Bittern, reptiles, and amphibians).
- Winter Restrictions: Avoid mowing and other management from November 1 to March 31 within fields over 25 acres (including all contiguous fields) and fields with a history of listed wintering raptors (regardless of field size). If management to improve habitat is planned during this time, conduct pre-treatment winter raptor surveys using established protocols to confirm there is no use by listed wintering raptors (short-eared owl and northern harrier). Other activities that cause excessive disturbance such as frequent high-speed snowmobile, ATV, motorized vehicle operation, or other loud noises should be avoided from November 1 to March 31, inclusive for the protection of wintering raptors.
Additional Mowing Guidelines
- Frequency of mowing, size of area mowed, and mowing techniques should be based on species present and current and desired habitat conditions.
- Block or spot mowing is preferred, and strip mowing should be limited (especially in fields over 25 acres). In some cases, spot/wander mowing can be done to leave cover while targeting problem areas.
- Unmowed blocks should be in the shape of a square as opposed to long rectangles.
- When mowing, consider mowing from one side of the field to the other side or start in the center an mow outwards to avoid concentrating animals in the area yet to be mowed.
In general, mow grass to a residual height of 6-12 inches.
New York State Ornithological Association
Ornithology is the term for the branch of zoology that refers to the study of birds. The New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA) is a member organization of professional ornithologists, birding clubs and enthusiastic birders. The objectives of NYSOA are to document the ornithology of New York State; to foster interest in and appreciation of birds; and to protect birds and their habitats.
New York State Avian Records Committee
The New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC) was established in 1977 by the New York State Ornithological Association (formerly The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs), with the primary goal of maintaining the official list of species of birds known to occur or have occurred (in the case of extinct species) in New York State and adjacent ocean. NYSARC reviews all data pertaining to records of scarce or rare birds reported in the state. These data are archived at Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to provide reference and research material for birders and ornithologists.