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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Breeding Bird Response to Native Warm-Season Grass Reestablishment in the Piedmont of Georgia
Year: 2005
Author(s): McMellen, A. B., Schweitzer, S. H.
Source Title: Proceedings of the 4th Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 62
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Southeastern early-successional habitat has experienced large-scale conversion to high intensity agriculture, pine plantations, and exotic grass pastures. Many native grasses have virtually been eliminated. Birds that depend on grassland communities for breeding and/or wintering habitat have experienced precipitous declines in the eastern United States. In order to evaluate native grass reestablishment as a management tool for grassland songbirds, we established 12 plots of 3 to 10 acres in the Piedmont region of Georgia. Six plots were forest openings within a loblolly pine forest landscape. Six plots were fields within an open agricultural landscape. Within each landscape context, three experimental plots were planted with a combination of big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, and indiangrass during spring 2002. Three control plots remained under the current management of annual mowing and periodic burning. Breeding bird use of experimental and control plots was monitored using constant effort mist netting, point counts, and transect surveys during spring 2002-2004. Vegetation measurements were made during spring 2002-2004 to evaluate success of native grass reestablishment and to quantify vegetative differences between control and experimental plots. Avian species richness in experimental and control plots remained similar from 2002-2004. Mist net capture rates were higher in control plots in 2002. In 2003 and 2004, capture rates were much higher in experimental plots. Grass cover increased from 2002-2003 (2004 data pending) in experimental plots but decreased in control plots. Plant species richness was similar in control and experimental plots in 2002 but higher in experimental plots in 2003. Data collected to date indicate that reestablished native grass fields may provide better habitat for breeding birds within the Piedmont of Georgia.