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Common Grassland Birds Disappearing in Midwest

Some of the most common grassland birds in Illinois, including the meadowlark, are decreasing in numbers. Correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW-Chicago reports on efforts to restore and preserve their prairie habitat.

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  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent:

    They don't call themselves bird watchers; instead, they are citizen scientists, carefully counting the birds they find. The National Audubon Society has just completed an analysis of 40 years of bird population data collected by citizen scientists, and the findings were very disturbing.

    Judy Pollack heads up bird conservation for the Audubon Society's Chicago region.

  • JUDY POLLACK, Audubon Society, Chicago Region:

    The declines were staggering in some of them, you know? So some of our most common birds have, in the last 40 years, declined, some of them 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent.


    In Illinois, Pollack worries the most about grassland birds like the meadowlark and the bobolink.


    The bobolink, that we've lost 97 percent in 40 years? I mean, that's just astonishing. You know, the meadowlark shocked me. You know, meadowlark, it's sort of the common birds of the farms. And we've lost 87 percent of them in the last 40 years is really, I think, astonishing.


    The biggest reason for the steep declines is the loss of the bird's habitat, says Chicago region Audubon director Stephen Packard.

  • STEPHEN PACKARD, Audubon Society, Chicago Region:

    These are birds that depend on a quality habitat of some kind, a quality woodland, a quality savannah or shrub land, quality prairie. Those are the ones going the fastest.