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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Avian community response to vegetation and structural features in grasslands managed with fire and grazing
Year: 2008
Author(s): Coppedge, B. R., Fuhlendorf, S. D., Harrell, W. C., Engle, D. M.
Source Title: Biological Conservation
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1196-1203
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: This study examined the importance of natural and manmade structural features on the avian community relative to management-induced vegetation dynamics. The study was conducted within the context of two alternative vegetation management treatments applied to pastures on a tallgrass prairie site in northcentral Oklahoma from 2001 to 2003. The brown-headed cowbird, a brood parasite, and the grasshopper sparrow, a common grassland obligate species, were most abundant in areas managed under a traditional treatment in which entire pastures were annually burned. Conversely, Henslow’s sparrow, a grassland obligate of conservation concern, was completely absent from traditional treatment pastures. Total bird species diversity and grassland obligate richness was highest in the patch-burn treatment, in which only discrete portions of each pasture were burned each year to create a mosaic of vegetation ‘patches’ in various stages of recovery from disturbance. Models of bird abundance reflected not only species-specific vegetation preferences, but also the often negative influence of structural features such as woody edges, roads, and ponds on breeding bird use of grasslands. Our study demonstrated that both disturbance-derived vegetation attributes and structural features contribute to heterogeneity and influence subsequent use by and composition of grassland bird communities.