In a research project recently conducted by the Practical Farmers of Iowa, there is evidence that grazing disturbance improves bird habitat for such species as bobolink, dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, and the eastern bluebird. Holistic Management practitioner Bruce Carney was the farmer collaborator on this project. He grazes cattle near Maxwell, Iowa and his property is located near a 10,000-acre wetland and prairie conservation area.
Working with researchers from Drake University between May and September of 2016, 9 bird counts were taken each week in each of the three research areas (restored prairie–conservation, perennial pasture–Bruce, and perennial + annual pasture–Bruce). Researchers recorded all bird sightings or calls within 10 minutes.
The outcomes were impressive in that Bruce’s pastures had 27% more species and 94% more birds than in the conservation area, with the perennial pastures having slightly more birds overall than the perennial and annual pastures. In total, 285 birds were counted in the restored prairie, 553 birds in the perennial pasture, and 524 birds in the perennial and annual pasture.
This research supports the research done by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory at Alejandro Carrillo’s Las Damas Ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. To read more about that case study, click here.