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Restoring Prairies for Grassland Birds

Featuring Tom Vanderpoel & the Citizens For Conservation

Thanks to Tom Vanderpoel and Citizens For Conservation, grassland birds like this Eastern Meadowlark are benefiting from expanded habitat in northeast Illinois, where volunteers are restoring native prairies. In autumn, volunteers collect seeds from restored grasslands. In spring, they scatter those seeds on new sites. As the grasses, flowers, and other plants are established, the birds return. “It doesn’t take very long before you start getting the rewards from what you’re doing,” says Tom.

Full Transcript



Restoring Prairies for Grassland Birds  

Featuring Tom Vanderpoel

Interview and Story by Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote!

[“It’s like out of the movie ‘You build it, they will come.’”]

That’s Tom Vanderpoel, coordinator of the all-volunteer Citizens For Conservation. Tom’s speaking about native prairies they’re restoring in northeast Illinois and the birds that rely on them. In autumn, volunteers collect seeds from a restored grassland. In spring, they scatter those seeds on new sites. 

“Today we’re picking Prairie Dropseed, and Little Bluestem, is another major grass, and a lot of the flowers like the big Compass Plant over here and the Rattlesnake Master…the Azure Aster and those plants are particularly critical to establishing the prairie.”

Why do this? 

“What we’re concerned about are grassland birds. And that’s because worldwide, nationwide, they’ve had huge population crashes. They need grasslands here…One way we can protect ‘em here is do restorations like this.”[Song of Bobolink] “Just one species called the Bobolink…goes way, way, to the south in Argentina and Paraguay…and they need spots here, though, to come back and breed. And…even these little small areas… we’ve had up to some years, 25 fledglings come out of our 40 acres here…Doesn’t take very long before you start getting the rewards from what you’re doing.” 

Now that it’s spring, let’s eavesdrop on some of those rewards:

Ah, the Eastern Meadowlark… [song of Eastern Meadowlark]

Eastern Bluebird…[song of Eastern Bluebird]

Bobolink…[song of Bobolink]

Hear more and see photos, at 


Bird songs provided by the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Eastern Meadowlark [106881] recorded by R.S. Little; Eastern Bluebird [85201] by W.L. Hershberger; and Bobolink [12419] by A.A. Allen. 

Prairie soundscape recorded (in northern Kansas) by Gordon Hempton of 

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to  May 2013  Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#  prairierestoration-02-2013-05-23 prairierestoration-02 Marantz IV Track 12


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