Grasslands

Oregon’s Grasslands (also known as prairies) are home to a wide array of avian species, including the endangered Streaked Horned Lark, Vesper Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Common Nighthawk and Oregon’s State Bird, the Western Meadowlark. However, Oregon’s grasslands are also highly imperiled due to conversion for agriculture and development as well as from grazing, impacts of invasive plant species and altered fire regimes.

Across North America, grassland birds have shown the steepest and most widespread declines of any ecological guild of bird species.

Western Meadowlark, photo by Mick Thompson

Today in the Willamette Valley, less than 1% of the historic grasslands remain. Oregon’s state bird, the Western Meadowlark is rarely seen, the Streaked Horned Lark has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the Vesper Sparrow is proposed for listing. The Common Nighthawk which once could be seen flying over Portland is now a rarity and many other grassland birds are declining steeply.

Portland Audubon works to protect Oregon’s grasslands and the species that depend on them in multiple ways. We advocate for strong grassland protection policies statewide. In the Willamette Valley we prioritize funding strategies (such as regional bond measures) to protect, acquire and restore grasslands and promote protection and restoration of specific priority sites such as Government Island in the Columbia River. Our top priority has been the recovery of the federally listed Streaked Horned Lark, a grassland dependent species whose range once extended from British Columbia to Northern California but which today sits on the brink of extinction.