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For an update on the illness affecting songbirds in 2021, visit the Animal Diseases webpage.

New York State is home to a variety of bird species. Besides information on specific birds and endangered species of birds, the following information and tools are also available:

Breeding Bird Atlas

The Breeding Bird Atlas is a comprehensive, statewide survey that reveals the distribution of breeding birds in New York. Two Breeding Bird Atlas projects have been completed to date, the first from 1980-1985, and the second from 2000-2005. Currently, the third is underway (2020-2024).


Periods of migration are the highest sources of mortality in bird which range from collisions with vehicles, buildings, or power lines; to storms; and exhaustion from a lack of adequate food supply along their routes. Typically weather and fog can cause a flock to fly lower, which leads to collisions, and can include multiple different species. If the weather is bad during migration periods, slow down while driving along heavy migration paths. You can track bird migration forecasts through Cornell's Lab of Ornithology website (leaves DEC website).

Be Bird Friendly

Every year millions of birds die from collisions with building glass, communication towers, and other human structures. Migrating birds in spring and fall can become disoriented by interior and exterior lighting, which causes them to use much needed energy as they travel north or south during evening darkness. But bright city lights and tall buildings are not the only hazards birds face from structures, nor is it limited to the migration period. Even in rural areas without tall buildings, thousands of birds collide with residential structures because of the transparency of glass windows by day or because of the effects of lighting at night. There are many ways to make buildings "bird friendly," often at little cost through the use of best practices.


New York State has adopted the Lights Out Initiative on agency buildings to reduce dangers to migratory birds. We encourage other property owners to join the effort. Lights Out is a simple concept-commercial and residential property owners and managers reduce night time light pollution by turning off or dimming non-essential lights. This reduces the likelihood of disorientation and impact by birds. Note that exterior security lighting is more bird friendly when directed downward rather than into the sky.


The transparency of glass windows lets light into our homes and businesses making our inside world a little brighter. This same transparency and reflectivity of glass also make it difficult for birds to detect that glass is a solid barrier. They may see the reflection of the outdoors in glass and fly into what they think is open space. Sometimes they see through the glass and think it is safe to pass through and hit the glass.

What You Can Do To Help

Resources for Young Birders

Two resources may be of interest to young people that have a passion for wild birds and their habitats:

Young Birders Network

The Young Birders Network website (leaves DEC website) includes extensive information for young birders around the world. It is primarily geared for ages 12-18. Its aim is to provide resources for young birders to connect and learn, and also to provide adult advocates for young birders the resources to encourage and support.

New York State Young Birders Club

The New York State Young Birders Club (leaves DEC website) provides community, friendship, and fun for young people who have a passion for wild birds and their habitats. This club is for birders in New York State between the ages of 10 and 19, inclusive.

Grassland Bird Habitat Requirements

View the NYSDEC Strategy for Grassland Bird Habitat Management and Conservation 2022-2027 (PDF) - a strategic plan for implementing priority actions for creating, managing, and maintaining grassland bird habitat within New York State.

Habitat loss and degradation have resulted in sharp declines in grassland bird populations in New York since 1966, according to Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data. The net result has been an astounding 80-99% decline in abundance of each species in just four decades.

How much grassland habitat do these species need? The answer to this question is unclear and appears to depend on several other factors such as location, shape, surrounding habitats, and vegetation types, as well as each species' individual needs. However, as a general rule, grasslands need to be at least twenty-five acres in size to offer appropriate habitat for at-risk grassland birds in New York.

Best Management Practices

Grassland field
Leaving grasslands undisturbed from
April through August allows grassland
nesting birds time to raise their young.

These Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be used to guide habitat management on grassland habitat or habitat to be converted into grassland. The management goal of these BMPs is to maintain the open, grassy conditions necessary for successful breeding by grassland birds and to avoid disturbance to nesting birds. Techniques to be used may include seeding, mowing, and removal of trees, shrubs, and invasive species. Typically, land should be managed for a minimum of 5 years to begin showing benefits for grassland birds. Fields not managed do not remain in a condition suitable for grassland birds for very long.

These BMPs were for the Landowner Incentive Program for Grassland Protection and Management, but can be applied to any sizable grassland to benefit grassland birds. From 2008-2018, 40 landowners managed over 4,300 acres of grasslands to benefit grassland birds through the former Landowner Incentive Program.

For more detailed information and recommendations, see A Plan for Conserving Grassland Birds in New York (leaves DEC website). In particular, refer to the plan for species-specific habitat requirements and detailed recommendations regarding grassland management and restoration techniques. Please contact DEC directly for guidance on mitigation projects.

Target Bird Species

The management recommendations in these BMPs are aimed towards grassland birds-Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Savannah Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, and Vesper Sparrow. Loggerhead Shrike is considered functionally extirpated in New York State. Target birds are those listed as "probably" or "confirmed" breeding in the 2005 Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) Block where the subject field is located. Birds registered in BBA blocks adjacent to the block where the field is located could colonize the subject field once the habitat becomes suitable for them.

  • Nesting Restrictions: Grasslands should not be disturbed by mowing, planting, harvesting, driving, or by any other mechanized means from 23 April to 15 August, inclusive (the nesting season) of every contract year.
  • Wintering Restrictions: Excessive disturbance such as frequent high speed snowmobile, ATV, motorized vehicle operation, or loud noises such as fireworks should be avoided from 1 November to 1 March, for the protection of wintering raptors.
  • Mowing window: All mowing must be done between 16 August and 31 October.
Preliminary Site Management
  • Between 16 August and 1 November of the first year of management, reduce fragmentation of the grassland by eliminating hedgerows, shrubs, and trees within the boundaries of the LIP field.
  • Between 16 August and 1 November and to the extent possible, eliminate woody vegetation, especially hedgerows within and bordering the field. Hedgerows split up habitat and function as corridors for predators such as coyote, foxes, cats, or raccoons and degrade the overall quality of the site for breeding.
Management Schedule
Grassland field partially mowed.
Grasslands can be managed on a three-year mowing rotation,
which provides a variety of grass heights and composition.

General: Mowing as early within the mowing window as circumstances and conditions allow to prevent the maturation and release of seeds from forbs, especially the species listed below. At least 1/3 of mowed vegetation should be chopped up and left on site after each mowing. Thatch will provide nesting habitat for birds as well as attracting moles and voles which are prey for raptors and owls. However, excessive amounts of thatch can smother the growth of new grasses.

Invasive or Undesirable Species: The following species, if present, may require spot-mowing after August 15th of any year to control their encroachment into the field: spotted or brown knapweed, pale swallow-wort, burdock, or goldenrods.

Years One through Five:

  • Conduct Preliminary Site Management as described above.
  • Divide the field into 1/3s (approximately) if total acreage is 30 acres or more, or into 1/2s if field is less than 30 acres. Mow the first 1/2 or 1/3 of the grassland to a height no shorter than 6 inches (8 inches is preferred). Rotate the portion mown every year.
Additional Recommendations

Prevent disturbance of nesting birds by feral or outdoor cats, dogs, fireworks, etc.

American Kestrel. Photo by Greg Hume.
Want to help? Build a nest box!
American kestrel, our smallest falcon,
hunts for insects and small rodents in
grasslands and nest in cavities of dead
or dying trees. Photo by Greg Hume.

Bird Associations

Links below leave DEC website.

New York State Ornithological Association - Ornithology is the term for the branch of zoology that refers to the study of birds. The New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA) is a member organization of professional ornithologists, birding clubs and enthusiastic birders. The objectives of NYSOA are to document the ornithology of New York State; to foster interest in and appreciation of birds; and to protect birds and their habitats.

New York State Avian Records Committee - The New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC) was established in 1977 by the New York State Ornithological Association (formerly The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs), with the primary goal of maintaining the official list of species of birds known to occur or have occurred (in the case of extinct species) in New York State and adjacent ocean. NYSARC reviews all data pertaining to records of scarce or rare birds reported in the state. These data are archived at Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to provide reference and research material for birders and ornithologists.

More about Birds:

  • New York State Birding - Explore the New York State Birding Trail, view a map of Birding Trail locations and nominate a location for inclusion in the Birding Trail. I Bird NY challenges are here, download the forms today.
  • Bird Species - A listing of bird species fact sheets
  • New York State Breeding Bird Atlas - Documenting the distribution of 250 breeding birds in New York State.
  • Bird Conservation Area Program and Sites - New York State Bird Conservation Area Program
  • Bird Webcams - Links to bird webcams operated by NYSDEC and other partners located in New York State and elsewhere around the world.