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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Grassland Breeding Bird Use of Managed Grasslands on the National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast
Year: 2005
Author(s): Mitchell, L. R., Runge, M. C., Norment, C. J., Rewa, C. A.
Source Title: Proceedings of the 4th Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 62-63
Original Publication:  
Abstract: In the northeast United States, grassland breeding birds have experienced significant declines, as agricultural land has reverted to forest or been lost to development. A recent trend in management of the remaining grasslands has focused on restoration by planting warm-season grasses. The Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from NRCS, initiated a three-year study in 2001 to (1) examine what role National Wildlife Refuges could play in providing critical habitat for grassland breeding birds; (2) determine how the choice of dominant grass species (cool-season or warm-season) and management technique (mowing versus burning) affect vegetation structure; and (3) assess how vegetation structure, in turn, affects breeding grassland bird use. Three treatments were investigated: warm-season grass managed through burning and cool-season grass managed through mowing or burning. These treatments were applied to grassland fields of 12 to 16 ha at 13 northeastern refuges (UWFWS Region 5). The fields were monitored for one year pre-treatment and two years post-treatment with independent double-observer point counts and standard vegetation measurements. Preliminary results suggest that planted warm-season grass fields did not attract a demonstrably higher density of obligate grassland birds than their cool-season counterparts and that the burning treatment in warm-season grass fields produced only minor and short-lived beneficial effects, in terms of obligate grassland bird density, vegetation density, and grass cover. However, patterns of response by grassland birds and vegetation variables varied considerably by refuge. Study results will be used to set management priorities and recommend management strategies at northeastern refuges and will also inform NRCS technical specialists administering USDA conservation projects involving grassland restoration on private lands in the region.
Publisher: The University of Kentucky Department of Forestry, Lexington, Kentucky
Editor(s): T. G. Barnes