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Wednesday, February 8 • 9:20am - 9:40am
Technical Session. Grassland Bird Response to Season of Burn and Grazing Intensity

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AUTHORS: Sarah Ogden, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; David A. Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Research Unit, Kansas State University; KC Olson, Jonathan Alexander, Jack Lemmon - Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University

ABSTRACT: The spread of invasive plant species is reducing quality of grassland bird nesting habitat in tall-grass prairies. Natural disturbances by fire and grazing can be harnessed to control unwanted plant species, including sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata). Summer fire and intensive grazing by a steer and sheep combination will reduce sericea lespedeza whole plant mass, seed production, and seed mass. Understanding how native wildlife communities respond to various fire and grazing strategies to control sericea is necessary for making responsible management decisions. From 2013 to 2016, two separate grasslands in the Flint Hills of Kansas were exposed to 1) various timings of fire (i.e., April, August or September) or 2) spring fire and one of two grazing regimes (i.e., steer grazing + rest or steer grazing + sheep grazing). Point-count surveys were conducted in 2015 and 2016 to estimate grassland bird densities and nests were located and monitored to estimate nest survival in each of the treatments. As a whole, the grassland bird community responded similarly to fires applied in spring, mid-summer, and late summer. Grasshopper sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), however, occurred in mid- and late summer fire treatments at densities two to three times greater than in spring fire treatments. Grasshopper sparrows were also sensitive to the lack of grazing on the study site, as evidenced by establishment of few nests. Differences in grazing intensity and types of grazers were not associated with differences in grassland bird density or daily nest survival for the grassland bird community as a whole, nor for individual species. Our results demonstrate that fires applied in spring or summer maintain grassland bird breeding habitat and that steer grazing, whether or not supplemented with sheep grazing, is additionally important in maintaining favorable characteristics, especially for grasshopper sparrows.

Wednesday February 8, 2017 9:20am - 9:40am CST
Grand Ballroom B