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Accession Number 5004796

Title Grassland bird breeding use of managed grasslands on National Wildlife Refuges

within Region 5 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Description Grassland breeding birds in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic (USFWS Region 5) have shown

declines over the last half-century as agricultural fields have been abandoned, and the landscape

has reverted to greater forest cover. At least 9 species of grassland birds are regionally threatened

or endangered, and Partners in Flight has identified these species and their associated habitat as

priorities for conservation. However, there is considerable uncertainty in what constitutes

appropriate habitat for populations of these species, and what management practices are most

effective for promoting their health. Some of the important questions include how vegetation

structure affects grassland bird use and reproductive success, what mix of grass species offers

the best habitat, whether mowing or burning to stop succession is best for grassland birds, and

where in the region the most important habitat is for various species. In conjunction with Regional

Biologists from USFWS we have developed a multi-Refuge, regional study of the effects of

management actions on grassland breeding birds and their habitat. The study will involve 13

Refuges stretched from Maine to Virginia. On each Refuge, three treatments will be applied to

existing grass fields, to examine the effects of grass species mix, and management actions (mow

or burn). Vegetation structure and composition, and obligate grassland breeding bird use (through

double-observer point counts) will be measured. Some of the field work will be done by Refuge

personnel or volunteers, some by USGS personnel, and some by contractual field biologists.

Specific objectives are to (1) determine how choice of dominant grass species, latitude, and

management technique affect vegetation structure in grassland fields on Region 5 National Wildlife

Refuges; (2) determine how vegetation structure and dominant grass species affect obligate

grassland bird use; and (3) establish information about grassland bird species distribution and

habitat use to support decisions about Regional priorities for management.

Keywords double-observer point counts, grassland birds, grassland management, mowing, national wildlife

refuge, prescribed fire, vegetation structure,

Principal Michael C Runge, USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: michael_runge@usgs.gov; William L

Investigators Kendall, USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: william_kendall@usgs.gov; John R Sauer,

USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: john_r_sauer@usgs.gov; Laura R Mitchell,

USFWS-Region 5 Refuges: laura_mitchell@fws.gov; Christophe Norment, State University of New

York at Brockport: cnorment@brockport.edu;

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