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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Response of winter birds to drought and short-duration grazing in southeastern Arizona
Year: 1999
Author(s): Bock, C. E., Bock, J. H.
Source Title: Conservation Biology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1117-1123
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: In a grassland-oak savanna in southeastern Arizona, we compared vegetative ground cover and bird populations between a 29-year livestock exclosure and an adjacent cattle ranch that was managed according to the principles of holistic resource management, including short-duration rotational grazing. The study took place in the winter after a 2-year drought and I year after the drought ended and stocking densities were reduced. During the first winter, grasses on the livestock exclosure were taller (4.4 times) and had higher basal area ground cover (2.5 times), canopy cover (2.2 times), and reproductive canopy cover (10 times) than in the grazed area. These differences persisted into the second winter but at lower levels. As a group, 19 species of ground-foraging, seed-eating birds (e.g., doves, quail, sparrows, towhees) were 2.7 times more abundant on the exclosure than on adjacent grazed grasslands during the first winter. These same species were 1. 7 times more abundant on the exclosure during the second winter and were 2.9 times more abundant on both sites combined after the drought had ended. A second group of 24 avian species with different foraging ecologies (e.g., predators, frugivores, arboreal insectivores) did not differ between treatments or years. Highw-densitys,h ort-duration rotational grazing, coupled with a drought, left the land in a substantially denuded condition through two winters and negatively affected a variety of resident and migratory birds dependent on ground cover and seed production for over-winter survival.