Grassland Songbirds

This is an old webpage carried forward to our new site. Please note that some of the information might be out of date and we probably have newer footage.

Grassland Songbirds

Grassland and shrubland birds are not especially diverse, or even abundant, when compared to rainforests and riparian areas. And many grassland birds are not especially colorful. Some are not very vocal either. Yet the birds are unique and present unique challenges for the videographer.

Grasslands and prairies are really comprised of a variety of habitats that may not seem radically different to us, but are to the birds. Species such as horned larks and mountain plovers are shortgrass specialists whereas upland plovers, grasshopper sparrows and others may be found in the taller grasses nearby. If there’s shrubs nearby, or a wetland or moist soil area, they may hosts other species of birds. Some birds may use one type of habitat for feeding and another for nesting. Any tree or stand of shrubs is likely to have a nest for at least one species.

Although there appears to be an endless supply of grass and prairie in the Great Plains, it is disappearing fast. And so are the native birds. In fact, as a group grassland birds are declining at a rate greater than many other groups.

Filming Grassland Songbird Stock Footage

Filming grassland and shrubland songbirds presents some unique challenges. First is the conditions. The prairie is often windy, meaning that a rock solid tripod is necessary (or staying home on windy days). Secondly, once the sun gets up high in the sky the ground heats up resulting in heat distortion if you’re using a long lens. As a general rule, sunrise and just after and just before sunsets are your best time. Fortunately, that’s when the birds are most active, most vocal, and most colorful in the softer light. As for getting close to the birds, a car can sometimes suffice as a good blind. A call may also help bring birds in a bit closer. Filming at nests presents unique challenges in the grasslands and prairies. The nests are often hidden in the grass and can only be seen when you are right on top of it. Therefore, a blind is out of the question. The best bet is to use a tapeless camera, preferably a small consumer type camera, and strategically place it near the nest and let it run. Meanwhile, you go back and sit on a nearby knoll.