Grassland bird populations are being lost at an alarming rate due to human modifications to grassland ecosystems. Grassland restoration has been shown to mitigate population declines for many species that use these habitats at some point in their annual cycles. We examined capture rates of adult, breeding, and hatch-year birds at a restored grassland site in the piedmont of central Georgia to determine whether colonization, breeding success, hatching success, and recruitment processes were impacting populations of grassland birds. We banded birds approximately twice per month from January 2009 through December 2021 at Panola Mountain State Park. Restoration efforts started in 2001, and include annual prescribed burns, control of invasives, and revegetation with native grassland plants. We documented an increase in total capture rates when all grassland species were combined (p=0.03, r2=0.37) and for several grassland species, including Chipping Sparrows (p=0.01, r2=0.44) and Marsh Wrens (p=0.004, r2=0.55). Capture rates of grassland birds in breeding condition increased as well, including when grassland species were combined (p=0.01, r2=0.45), Common Yellowthroats (p=0.05, r2=0.30), Indigo Buntings (p=0.04, r2=0.34), and Field Sparrows (p=0.002, r2=0.59). Capture rates of hatch-year birds increased for Chipping Sparrows (p=0.02, r2=0.39). Species-specific responses to restoration occur at different rates depending on habitat preferences, yet the only species that significantly declined was the Red-winged Blackbird, a bird more associated with water than grasslands. We attribute these increases and, importantly, the lack of significant declines, to successful ongoing restoration, which is providing adequate and appropriate resources for grassland birds. If managers identify target species, we recommend that restoration efforts include activities that are aimed at species-specific habitat requirements and habitat-level threats of those target species.
We first need to thank Phil Delestrez and Elaine Nash, without whom this restoration project would not have begun. The restoration work of Nathan Klaus and all of the Georgia Interagency Prescribed Fire Team members who have assisted over the years, and who are far too numerous to list here, were invaluable in the field efforts. We could not have done any of this work without the tireless efforts of the bird banding volunteers or “Band Aides” who have donated over 26,000 hours to date. In particular Anne McCallum, Terry Valentine, Ashley Harrington, Paul Hoinowski, Mary Kimberly, Wayne Powell, Maribel Fernandez, Eddie Hatchett, Ethan Hatchett, Heather Pitman who have all donated over 500 hours each of skilled labor and Anne Armstrong, who has donated 1612 hours since 4 October, 2008. Charlie would also like to thank Tracey and Allan Muise for not only all their work at the banding station (both over 700 hours), but for bearing with him through data entry, permitting challenges, scheduling conflicts, as well as the hundreds of hours they have spent laundering thousands of bird bangs, repairing banding equipment, maintaining net lanes, and all of the other work needed to maintain this station. Funding for this project was through the Georgia DNR, Georgia State Parks, and Georgia College & State University, but the majority of the work was done through volunteer donations.
Stumpf, Katie and Muise, Charles
"Increasing Capture Rates of Grassland Birds Over Thirteen Years Indicates Successful Restoration,"
Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 81, No. 2, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.gaacademy.org/gjs/vol81/iss2/1