Date of this Version
Gruntorad, M. P., Graham, K. A., Arcilla, N., and Chizinski, C. J. Is hay for the birds? Investigating landowner willingness to time hay harvests for grassland bird conservation. Animals 2021, 11, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx
Birds in agricultural environments have exhibited steep global population declines in recent decades, and effective conservation strategies targeting their populations are urgently needed. In grasslands used for hay production, breeding birds’ nest success improves substantially if hay harvests are delayed until after mid-July. However, few studies have investigated private hay producers’ willingness to alter their harvesting practices to support bird conservation, a critical factor for bird conservation where most land is privately owned, such as in the North American Great Plains. We surveyed Nebraska hay producers to examine whether livestock production, wildlife knowledge, and hunting activity affects their willingness to alter haying practices for bird conservation. The majority (60%) of respondents expressed willingness to delay harvesting hay to allow birds time to nest successfully. Livestock producers and those more knowledgeable about wildlife were more willing to delay hay harvests, whereas active hunters were less willing to do so. Our findings suggest a majority of private producers show high potential for engaging in grassland bird conservation activities. Building on this willingness to expand participation in bird conservation programs and actions could be encouraged through extension and education efforts connecting hay producers with information, support, and funding for bird conservation.