Important Bird Areas

Voice of America

Ohio

This IBA is approximately 525 acres surrounded by development that has sprung up since the late 1990s when the block of land was decommissioned as one of the U.S. government Voice of America radio broadcasting relay stations. The majority of the Voice of America IBA is comprised of acreage now owned and managed by two separate but contiguous entities: West Chester Township owns the smaller southern portion and Butler County MetroParks owns the larger northern portion and calls their section Voice of America Park.
The entire area is of mixed use. It includes grassland of cool-season/forage grasses, one 2.5- acre wooded wetland, one 30-acre artificial lake on the north edge, an enhanced pond and wetland near the south boundary, and numerous public areas developed for various recreational pursuits. The core grassland area was originally approximately 350 acres in size, though year-to-year changes in mowing and management practices have reduced the amount of viable grassland habitat to as little as ~100 acres during some years.

Ornithological Summary

There are as yet no other known sites in southwest Ohio, including a number of native prairies, which have the numbers and diversity of grassland birds recorded
at VOA. Voice of America holds the largest known breeding populations of Henslow's Sparrow, Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark in southwest Ohio. Numbers have declined and/or leveled off in recent years. Sedge Wren is an occasional summer resident, though not an annual breeder; Savannah Sparrow breeds each year, though numbers have been declining at the site in recent years, with 10 max. daily; current numbers include Henslow's Sparrow 8 max. daily, Bobolink 30 max. daily, Eastern Meadowlark 30 max. daily. Blue Grosbeaks bred at the site for the first time in 2007.
Wintering birds include Eastern Meadowlark, and occasional visits by Northern Harriers. The MetroParks lake may provide wintering habitat for waterfowl and other waterbirds, but there are not enough records yet to confirm this. Prior to 2004-2005, 2-6 Short-eared Owls wintered at the site. Changes in mowing practices and development may affect these numbers. The VOA also occasionally attracts locally and statewide rare birds, such as an observed Willet in May 2001 and Ohio's approximately eleventh documented record of a White-faced Ibis in May 2002.

Conservation Issues

Due to the recent creation of the 30+-acre lake as well as to modifications of existing habitat, the birds of the VOA remain in a rather dynamic state. Some of the changes might result in positive impacts, others negative. Both West Chester Township and Butler County MetroParks have indicated a commitment to creating a long-term management plan for the grasslands. One certainty is an increase in development in and around the VOA. 200-300 acres of grassland left undeveloped might maintain the current populations of birds. Possibly, the birds of the VOA have already been negatively impacted, though it is promising that seemingly stable numbers of Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Henslow's Sparrows still breed at the site. Active management of the site for non-native plant invasives will be required to ensure the integrity of the grassland habitat for grassland birds. M. Busam has run a breeding bird survey throughout the spring and summer since 2001.

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