Piedmont Grassland Bird Initiative

Partners: Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes program, Piedmont Environmental Council, American Farmland Trust 

Location: Northern Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley regions

The need: In northern Virginia, grassland birds have adapted to using hayfields and pasturelands as surrogate habitat. That can be an ecological trap, but it can also be an opportunity for conservation through the implementation of specific farm-management practices.

  •  The Piedmont Grassland Bird Initiative (PGBI) launched in 2020 to help stem the decline of grassland birds, improve the resiliency of working landscapes, and support livelihoods that depend upon those land
  • The PGBI will support knowledge-sharing through peer-to-peer trainings, hands-on workshops for landowners held on exemplar farms, and tracking acreage converted to conservation use. It will also incentivize conservation through payments for implementing bird-friendly best management practices and increased technical assistance for producers
  • This initiative helped the American Bird Conservancy launch the creation of a new bird conservation priority area — the Northern Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley BirdScape — to champion locally iconic grassland birds, including the northern bobwhite and eastern meadowlark, as symbols of conservation success  
  • Ongoing research helps inform and shape PGBI’s conservation goals, which include assessing impacts of habitat management on grassland bird communities, testing various methods to restore and manage native warm season grasses, identifying habitat associations of flagship bird species on a mixture of public and private lands, and social science research with landowners and citizen scientists to understand what motivates conservation behaviors on private lands