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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Edge avoidance by nesting grassland birds: A futile strategy in a fragmented landscape
Year: 2005
Author(s): Renfrew, R. B., Ribic, C. A., Nack, J. L.
Source Title: Auk
Source Type: Journal
pages: 618-636
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Some grassland passerine species are considered area-sensitive, but the mechanisms underlying that phenomenon are not understood, particularly on grazed grasslands. Area sensitivity may result from edge avoidance or higher nest predation near edges, both of which may be influenced by predator activity or cattle-induced vegetational differences between pasture edge and interior. We assessed the effect of distance to edge on nest density and predation Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), and meadowlarks (Sturnella spp.) along wooded and nonwooded edges of Wisconsin pastures in 19982000 and the activity of potential mammalian nest predators along those edges in 20002001. We found a positive relationship between nest density and distance from edge for all edge types combined, but that was not the result of eff ects of wooded edges: we found no diff erence in density between nests located <50 or <100 m from wooded versus nonwooded (crop or grassland) edges. Models that included combinations of vegetation structure (e.g. concealment), initiation date, year, or edge variables (or all four) were poor predictors of the probability of nest predation. Placing nests away from edges, therefore, did not reduce the risk of nest predation. Eight species known to prey on grassland bird nests were documented along pasture edges, raccoon (Procyon lotor) being the most common. Frequency of raccoon and thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) visitation was higher along wooded edges and nonwooded edges, respectively. Cattle (Bos taurus) activity did not differentially affect vegetation height-density along edges compared with that in the pasture interior. Possible reasons for predation risk being similar in both pasture interiors and edges in a fragmented landscape include the ease with which predators can move within pastures, high percentage of resident grassland predators, and small size (median = 47.2 ha) of pastures.