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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS OF GRASSLAND BIRDS AT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK, GA**

Abstract

Grassland birds are experiencing major population declines as their habitat continues to be converted to cropland throughout the United States. Many are now protected under various federal and state regulations and there have been large-scale grassland restoration efforts, but there is little data on breeding productivity in restored habitats nor on the impact of specific vegetation characteristics that may affect reproductive output. Since 2005, agriculture fields at Panola Mountain State Park have been undergoing restoration to warm-season grasslands and a banding station has been monitoring bird populations using twice monthly capture data in this area since 2007. Up until now there has been no monitoring of nest success or productivity; the goals of this project are to 1) quantify reproductive success, 2) assess population trajectory, and 3) determine which vegetation characteristics are associated with reproductive success. From March-August 2019, we monitored all active nests and at the end of the season recorded nest outcome and vegetation characteristics (e.g., nest height, plant species around the nest, coverage around the nest) to determine which variables were most strongly associated with success. We found 52 nests of 11 species, with an overall success rate of 32%. Thirty-seven of these were grassland obligates (5 species), 38% of which were successful. We used Akaike’s Information Criterion (AICc) to determine the vegetation characteristics most strongly associated with success; the most supported model included plant height, plant height above the nest, nest type, and distance to water (wi=0.65). Model averaged parameter estimates and odds ratios indicate plant height above the nest, plant height, and distance to water had the greatest effect on success. We recommend managers design restoration efforts that will ensure appropriate grass height and maintain adequate water near nesting areas to ensure high quality, productive habitat for grassland birds.

Acknowledgements

Georgia Ornithology Society (funded project)

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