State of U.S. Grassland Birds: Still Declining

The new State of the Birds report reveals grassland birds are among the fastest-declining bird species in the United States, with a 34% loss since 1970.

Published by 33 leading science and conservation organizations and agencies, the 2022 U.S. State of the Birds report is the first look at the nation’s birds since a landmark 2019 study showed the loss of 3 billion birds in the United States and Canada in 50 years.

The report identifies 70 Tipping Point species that have each lost 50% or more of their populations in the past 50 years, and are on a track to lose another half in the next 50 years if nothing changes – 70 birds that could be next to face threatened or endangered status. Among the grassland birds marked as Tipping Point species are the Bobolink, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Greater Sage-Grouse (more specifically a sagebrush-obligate species), Henslow’s Sparrow, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Mountain Plover, and Sprague's Pipit.

In addition to the Tipping Point species, the report includes 20 additional On Alert bird species that have lost half their populations in the past 50 years. Grassland bird species in this category include the Baird’s Sparrow and the Thick-billed Longspur.

The 2022 State of the Birds report does contain a glimmer of hope: Birds are declining overall in every habitat except in wetlands, where decades of investment have resulted in dramatic gains, showing the power of funding and policy investments. The report suggests applying this winning formula in more habitats, including grasslands, will help birds and natural resources rebound.

Recognizing the need to work at bigger, faster scales, 200 organizations from across seven sectors in Mexico, Canada, the U.S., and Indigenous Nations are collaborating on a Central Grasslands Roadmap to conserve one of North America's largest and most vital ecosystems—hundreds of millions of acres of grasslands.

Increased funding for bird habitat conservation is also urgent. This includes passing legislation that will expand funding, including for states through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and internationally under the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Enhancements Act. Audubon Conservation Ranching, Audubon’s flagship grassland initiative, provides additional value for private landowners while working to engage everyday consumers in support of grassland conservation efforts.

“While this report is about birds, it’s important to remember that as key indicator species, birds are telling us about our environment, too,” said Chris Wilson, Program Director for Audubon Conservation Ranching, “As grassland birds go, so goes the rural economies and livelihoods that grasslands sustain. We can’t disregard that connection.” Wilson says sustainable cattle ranching is a pathway to improve grassland health while providing jobs, food, and habitat for wildlife – including bringing grassland birds back.

After several years of piloting in the Great Plains, Audubon Conservation Ranching launched nationally in 2017. Today, 99 ranches, covering 2.7 million acres across 15 states, have met bird-friendly standards, and 166 retailers carry products with the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal, which informs consumers that beef and/or bison products grazed on lands managed for birds and biodiversity. View our retailer explorer map to find a retailer near you.

The 2022 U.S. State of the Birds report was produced by a consortium of government agencies, private organizations, and bird initiatives led by NABCI (North American Bird Conservation Initiative). Read the report at