US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Wilson Bull., 107(4), 1995, pp. 709-718.


Previous studies have shown that habitat provided by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a feature of the 1985 farm bill, is used by many birds. The present study quantitatively assesses the importance of the CRP by estimating changes in breeding bird populations of North Dakota projected if CRP land would revert to cultivation. Of 18 species that were common in CRP or crop fields or both, 12 were more abundant in CRP habitats. Six of these species had suffered significant population declines during 1967-1990, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In contrast, none of the six species that were more common in cropland than in CRP fields had declined significantly. Termination of the Conservation Reserve Program and a return of enrolled land to cultivation is projected to cause population declines in North Dakota exceeding 17% for Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis), Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), Dickcissel (Spiza americana), and Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys).