Grassland Birds Need Your Help During Nesting Season
It’s nesting season for the western meadowlark and other birds who make their nests in prairie grasslands such as those along the Willamette River in the Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park (http://www.eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=1728).
Romping dogs and off-trail boots can crush eggs and scatter tiny chicks.
“It’s really important that people stay on designated trails and keep their dogs leashed,” says Lauri Holts, ecologist with the City’s Parks and Open Space Division.
Grassland-nesting birds such as meadowlark, pheasant, killdeer and quail depend on open, grassy areas to feed and raise their young. With less than one percent of the Willamette Valley’s historic prairie habitats remaining, it’s critical to protect every nesting site.
Dog owners who want to let their dogs run and play can do so at a number of off-leash dog parks in the area, including one in Alton Baker Park near Autzen Stadium. There are lots of opportunities for hiking as well, including more than 10 miles of surfaced trails in Alton Baker Park.
“Alton Baker Park has something for everyone,” says Holts. “All we’re asking is that people give these beautiful birds the space to raise their young in one of the few remaining prairies in this area.”
According to the “Willamette Valley Landowner’s Guide to Creating Habitat for Grassland Birds,” the western meadowlark was selected as the state bird in 1927 because of its bright colors and cheerful song. Today, due to development, cultivation, invasive species and other issues, the meadowlark is no longer common in some parts of Oregon and has become increasingly rare in the Willamette Valley.
Nesting season generally runs from mid-March to mid-July. Dogs must be leashed year-round in the Whilamut Natural Area. For more information about the Whilamut Natural Area, go to http://www.eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=1728.