Helping Other Bird Species at Risk

Eastern Meadowlark, copyright Kevin Watson

Eastern Meadowlark, copyright Kevin Watson

Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Most folks know of Duke Farms as the home of nesting (and endangered) Bald Eagles, but they aren’t the only at-risk  birds that have found a home on the 2,740-acre property in Hillsborough, N.J.

In all, Duke Farms’ bird checklist contains a dozen other nesting species that are considered endangered, threatened or of special concern, ranging from  a small falcon called an American Kestrel to a quartet of rare  sparrows (Vesper, Grasshopper, Henslow’s, and Savannah Sparrow).

One of the key sites on the property is not visible to visitors — the conservation grasslands to the west, the home to several species of at-risk birds. (The photos are by  colleague Kevin Watson. You can see more of his Duke Farms photography here.)

“This guild of birds is Duke Farms’ is the most significant conservation priority on the property,” says Thom Almendinger, Duke Farms’ Director of Natural Resources.

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A Bobolink in the Duke Farms grasslands. Photo by Kevin Watson

American Kestrel at nest box, copyright Kevin Watson.

American Kestrel at nest box, copyright Kevin Watson.

“Grassland birds, depending on species, require bare ground to old field with small shrubs and everything in between.  Building this into the matrix is vital for diversity — returning Henslow’s Sparrows, for example.

“Delaying mowing until after August 1 has been the single greatest boost for those species.”

According to Thom, the  diverse plant communities and abundant cover in the grasslands provide safe haven for small mammals like voles and mice.  “They’re important food sources for breeding American Kestrels and wintering raptors.”

With the N.J. DEP, Duke Farms has also installed more than 25 American Kestrel boxes on the property.

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.

Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at

Tomorrow: All About Duke Farms’ Other At-Risk Birds.

Next Wednesday: A Look Back at the 2015 Eagle Nesting Season.

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