Post-fire successional effects on breeding grassland birds in mesquite savanna habitats of the Texas rolling plains
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North American grasslands and grassland birds have declined drastically due to habitat degradation by fire suppression (i.e., woody encroachment), fragmentation, and conversion to croplands. A better understanding is needed of the relationships among disturbance regimes (e.g., fire), resultant vegetation changes, and grassland bird communities to effectively manage remaining grasslands and grassland birds. I assessed the relationship between post-fire succession, and mean relative abundance and nesting ecology of breeding grassland birds (i.e., nest-site selection and nest success) in mesquite-dominated rangeland of the Texas Rolling Plains, where prescribed fire is used as a tool to manage shrub encroachment. Brush cover, grass cover, and visual obstruction generally increased with post-fire succession, and bare ground decreased with post-fire succession. Species richness, grasshopper sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), CassinÃ¢ÂÂs sparrows (Aimophila cassinii), and dickcissels (Spiza americana) responded positively to post-fire succession, and lark sparrows (Chondestes grammacus) responded negatively to post-fire succession.; abundance of these avian groups was low on the control sites. During 2004Ã¢ÂÂ2005, 90 grassland bird nests were monitored. I found conflicting results for vegetation parameters important to nest site selection and probability of nest success. For all species except lark sparrows, nest-site location was positively associated with visual obstruction and with grass or forb cover. However, the probability of nest success increased with lower visual obstruction, bare ground cover, or grass cover. Grassland bird abundance, nest-site location, and nest success had differing associations with vegetation variables. These results suggest that to effectively manage remaining grasslands for sustainable breeding grassland bird populations, managers should engage in practices that keep habitat in multiple vegetative successional stages.
Lee, Stephanie L. (2006). Post-fire successional effects on breeding grassland birds in mesquite savanna habitats of the Texas rolling plains. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from