Habitat Change Threatens Connecticut’s Birds; Sound Conservation Management is Crucial to Recovery

Jul 29th, 2014 | By | Category: Birding, Top Story, Wildlife

Connecticut’s wide diversity of bird species is diminishing and is at risk of continued declines as habitats throughout the state suffer from neglect caused by a lack of conservation management.

bobolinks-state-of-the-birds-audubon-fuscoThat’s the key finding of Connecticut Audubon Society’s annual Connecticut State of the Birds report, released this week at a news conference in Easton, at Aspetuck Land Trust’s 1009-acre Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area. Based in Fairfield, Connecticut Audubon Society is the state’s original and independent Audubon society.

The report shows how land conservation agencies and organizations throughout the state have reduced or eliminated the natural processes that otherwise would create a mosaic of different habitat stages and types, resulting in an increasingly large forest monoculture and a diminishing variety of birds.

It also highlights examples of how sound conservation management planning is leading to sustainable improvements around the state. As Stephen B. Oresman, chairman emeritus of Connecticut Audubon Society, put it in his article, “What we are promoting is an approach to wiser land use that is complex, detailed, and long-term.”

Released annually since 2006, Connecticut State of the Birds has become the leading research-based assessment of conservation conditions in Connecticut. This year’s report, “Connecticut’s Diverse Landscape: Managing Our Habitats for Wildlife,” highlights examples of where conservation planning and management has succeeded in sustaining the habitats that are most in danger, including grasslands and early-successional fields.

“There is still a wealth of beauty and biodiversity throughout Connecticut,” said Connecticut Audubon Society President Alexander R. Brash. “But managing areas for wildlife is a lot more complicated than just letting them go. Because our landscape is already human dominated and no longer naturally balanced, we must determine what we want a landscape to look like and then actively manage the process to achieve that goal.”

There are signs of progress, and the report recommends increasing support for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the largest owner of conservation land in the state; and the creation of a grant program to help Connecticut’s 100-plus private land conservation organizations pay for professional planning.

“We are starting to wake up to this dilemma,” said Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for Connecticut Audubon Society, “and land management processes are evolving so that they consider broader scale biodiversity, particularly in terms of early successional habitat.”

Birds that require early successional, or scrub-shrub, habitat have experienced the most rapid decline of any group of Connecticut birds, because their habitat has been allowed to grow into mature forest or has been converted to lawn. Those birds include Blue-winged Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Indigo Bunting, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Field Sparrow. Grasslands birds such as Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks have similarly declined.

The report includes an article about how Aspetuck Land Trust is attempting to use conservation management planning to resolve use conflicts at Trout Brook Valley that are threatening the preserve’s spectacular diversity of plants, birds and other wildlife.

Other articles examine the restoration of tidal marshes in Fairfield, creation of a grassland in Waterford, and the loss of a heron colony in Norwalk. The report also looks at the DEEP’s role in conservation management.

The 2014 report documents that to meet the state goal of preserving 21 percent of the land in Connecticut by 2023, conservation agencies and organizations would have to preserve about 25,000 acres a year for the next decade.

But even that is only an estimate because while officials have a good idea how much land the state has protected, no one knows how much land the municipalities and private organizations have protected. And, further, no one knows how much of that land has important conservation value or what that value is.

Other Actions and Recommendations in the report include calls for the state to fully implement the 2012 open space law; and for the creation of a state commission of land conservation experts to work with the DEEP and the state’s municipalities to document the location, amount and status of their preserved lands, including their conservation values and the status of conservation planning.


Connecticut’s old conservation style of buying up property to save it from development, then letting the landscape return to forest isn’t working for many of this state’s declining bird species, according to the Connecticut Audubon Society.

The society’s 2014 State of the Birds report warns that much of Connecticut’s remaining open space, if it returns to forest, might be good for some woodland birds but won’t help birds like bobolinks and upland sandpipers that need grasslands for nesting.

For more on this story, visit: Audubon Report Warns State Must Change Conservation to Save Bird Species – Courant.com.


The continued maintenance of open space, however, is critically important to the survival of birds and other wildlife that utilize a specific habitat. Many bird species are in decline because habitat is not properly maintained.That is the message of the 2014 Connecticut State of the Birds report, which was released Monday during a press conference at verdant Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area in Easton and Weston.

For more on this story, visit: CT Aubudon report stresses habitat management – Thehour.com: Norwalk.

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