North River Ranch Notches Bird-Friendly Certification from the National Audubon Society

Rotationally grazing cattle herd helping grassland birds at northeast Missouri ranch
Henslow's Sparrow. Photo: Carol Goodall/Audubon Photography Awards

Shelbyville, Mo. (April 16, 2024)  — The National Audubon Society proudly announces North River Ranch, owned and operated by Peter and Bess Allen, has earned distinction as an Audubon Certified bird-friendly habitat. The certification, earned through Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program, recognizes the Allens for actively managing their land for birds and biodiversity.

As an Audubon Certified bird-friendly habitat, North River Ranch meets all Audubon Conservation Ranching program requirements regarding habitat management, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. With the certification, the Allens can use the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal on the packaging and promotion of beef products from the ranch, and in the promotion of ranch tours and stays.

“‘Actively managing’ means creating and maintaining habitat for grassland birds,” says Sarah Hewitt, Senior Conservation Manager for Audubon Upper Mississippi River, the organization’s regional office covering Missouri. She says the future of grassland bird populations, which have plummeted in recent decades primarily due to habitat loss, depends on private landowners like the Allens and their habitat mindset.

 “Of course, we love seeing and listening to birds and having them here for our campground guests to observe, but we also value them as biological indicators that our regenerative ranch management is taking hold. Here, birds tell us that our land restoration is working,” said Bess Allen. Key birdy indicators at North River Ranch include Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Henslow’s Sparrows, and Northern Bobwhites.

Cattle are habitat helpers at North River Ranch, strategically moved around the landscape to create differing grassland layers for birds. Photo: Courtesy of North River Ranch

Cattle are central to creating the varied habitat these and other grassland bird species need. “Rotational grazing is one of the means to making a habitat mosaic,” Hewitt says. She says the method, biologically based on how bison once roamed this south-central edge of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, is strategic, designed to create layers of short, mid, and tall grasses and flowers for a variety of bird species and other wildlife.

Habitat diversity is what makes North River Ranch a special place for birds. “Grasslands, including valuable native prairie, plus wetlands and waterways make the ranch beneficial to birds,” Hewitt said. “Grassland birds are ideal indicators of thriving grasslands. Initial bird monitoring at North River Ranch showed a very robust bird list.” Two days of monitoring across the ranch cataloged 60 bird species. More bird monitoring info is available at North River Ranch’s bird monitoring page. Bobolinks, Dickcissels, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Grasshopper Sparrows were the most abundant grassland-obligate species surveyed.

For more information about Audubon Conservation Ranching in Missouri, please contact Sarah Hewitt. If you would like information in other states, reach out to

About Audubon Conservation Ranching

A wildlife habitat initiative of the National Audubon Society with a unique market connection, Audubon Conservation Ranching aims to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in partnership with ranchers – on whose land 95 percent of grassland birds live. Audubon Conservation Ranching’s enrollment includes over 100 ranches and nearly 3 million acres that have earned status as Audubon Certified bird-friendly land. Incentivizing this habitat work for birds and biodiversity are consumers with an appetite for conservation, who support it by purchasing products grazed on these lands. Shoppers see a special package designation – the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal – that sets these products apart. For more information, visit