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Old 10-25-2011, 09:57 AM   #1
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Default Grassland birds and migratory habitat?

This blog by an ecologist that works at prairie restoration and prairie management for the nature conservancy is one of the most interesting blogs that I read. Today he speaks about grassland bird migration and how the migration habitat along the travel route may differ from breeding grounds. He also touches on the fact that one study often gives us more questions than answers but each step is necessary to gain understanding.
So many people are beginning to question the need to slow invasive plant species, even going so far as to suggest that the plants should be allowed to progress through succession and see what happens. I think these studies give us more information about the species diversity that could be lost as a result.

What Do Grassland Birds Need for Migratory Habitat? | The Prairie Ecologist

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What are those grassland birds using the habitat for? Are they feeding significantly while there or just resting? If they’re feeding, are they eating insects or seeds – or both? Do grassland birds look for the same habitat structure (e.g., tall/dense or short/sparse, etc.) when choosing migratory stopover habitat as they do when choosing breeding habitat? Knowing the answers to those questions would sure be helpful as we think about how to manage prairies. For example, assuming habitat structure is important to grassland migrants, decisions whether to burn a prairie in the fall, early spring, or late spring could have very big implications for migratory birds.

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Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 5,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:28 AM   #2
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Hopefully at least some grassland birds could adapt to feeding and resting in corridors of grasslands along the way. With all the developement in North America it would be hard to expect survival of these birds otherwise. I think predation may be higher in the smaller grassland like areas and so fewer birds successfully completing migration. So many queston to answer...
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One of the most interesting findings in the study by Robertson and his colleagues is the suggestion that grassland patch size might be important for migratory grassland birds. Woodland migrants have been more extensively studied than grassland birds, and while the picture is not yet clear, it doesn’t appear that birds that require large woodlands for breeding habitat necessarily require the same for migratory stopover habitats. As an example, a study in eastern South Dakota found that neotropical migrants seemed to use small farmstead woodlots and large Missouri River woodlands interchangeably. Again, there are still lots of questions still to answer (e.g., are there differences in stress levels or weight loss between habitat types?) but that apparent ability for woodland birds to feed and roost in small woodland habitat during migration has important implications for conservation.
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