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Wednesday, February 8 • 11:20am - 11:40am
Technical Session. Taking Fledglings into Consideration When Assessing Management Impacts on Grassland Bird Productivity

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AUTHORS: Daniel Wolcott, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Christine Ribic, US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit; Rosalind Renfrew, Vermont Center for Ecostudies; James Herkert, Illinois Department of Natural Resources; David Sample, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: In the Midwest, the majority of nesting habitat for grassland birds is on privately owned agricultural grasslands. Conservation organizations have defined periods when grassland disturbance should be avoided to protect grassland bird nests, and thus enhance bird productivity. This period typically runs 15 April (Illinois) or 15 May (Wisconsin) to August 1 (both states). We used 20 years of grassland bird nesting data from Wisconsin and Illinois (3,350 nests) to determine the potential impact of disturbance on bird productivity. Specifically, we compared the potential losses of grassland bird nests and fledglings from early- and late-season mowing. We used a simulation approach to model survival of nests and fledglings based on nest data. Disturbance dates for mowing were the average dates when 50% of hay harvest was done in the two states (National Agricultural Statistical Service data) and July 20 for late-season mowing. The first and second mowings of hay in both states (Illinois: early June, early July; Wisconsin: mid-June, mid-July) potentially impact bird productivity more than the third mowing (Illinois: mid-August; Wisconsin: late August). More nests were potentially lost in the first mowing compared to the second for both Illinois (74% and 34%, respectively) and Wisconsin (70% and 15%, respectively). Potential fledgling loss in Illinois was higher during the second mowing (77%) than the first (47%) while fledgling loss in Wisconsin was slightly higher in the first mowing (65%) than the second (54%). For late-season mowing, few nests would be lost but potentially half of the fledglings would be.  Current recommendations for restricting disturbance on grasslands appear to limit potential nest mortality, however, if late-season disturbances (e.g., late-season fires) increase, these timelines may need to be reassessed to consider fledglings (which are dependent on parents for 2-3 weeks post-fledging) to protect overall bird productivity.

Wednesday February 8, 2017 11:20am - 11:40am CST
Grand Ballroom B