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Wednesday, February 8 • 10:40am - 11:00am
Technical Session. Grassland Bird Productivity in Warm Season Grass Fields in Southwest Wisconsin

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AUTHORS: Christine A. Ribic, US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit; Carolyn M. Byers, Madison Audubon Society; David W. Sample, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; John D. Dadisman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Michael R. Guttery, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

ABSTRACT: Grassland habitat established through federal set-aside programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, provide important surrogate grassland habitat for grassland birds. Warm-season grass CRP fields as a group are vegetatively diverse and have the potential for providing a continuum of habitat for breeding birds, depending on how the fields are managed. We studied the nesting activity of obligate grassland bird species in relation to field vegetation and fire management in warm-season CRP fields in southwest Wisconsin 2009-2011. We found 174 nests of 11 grassland obligate bird species over the three field seasons. The majority of nests found were Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Henslow’s Sparrow. Nest density varied in relation to the number of years since the field was burned. Grasshopper Sparrow nest density was highest in the breeding season immediately following spring burns, Henslow’s Sparrow nest density was highest 1 year post burn and Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark nests were higher in post fire years 1-3. More Grasshopper Sparrow nests were found on sites with more diverse vegetation, specifically prairie forbs, and on sites with shorter, less dense vegetation. Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Henslow’s Sparrow nests were found on sites with deeper litter; litter was the vegetative component that was affected the most by spring burns. Overall probability of fledging at least one young was 0.487 for Bobolink, 0.478 for Eastern Meadowlark, 0.507 for Grasshopper Sparrow, and 0.151 for Henslow’s Sparrow. The major predators were thirteen-lined ground squirrel, striped skunk, milk snake, badger, and fox snake. Overall predation did not vary by the number of years since the site had been burned. The diversity of vegetation and management by fire on warm-season CRP fields provides a continuum of structure for obligate grassland birds to utilize for breeding and habitat for a diversity of nest predators.

Wednesday February 8, 2017 10:40am - 11:00am CST
Grand Ballroom B