Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 1998


Great Plains Research (1998) 8(1).


Copyright © 1998, Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


Grassland birds are known to respond to specific changes in habitat structure, such as plant height and density. However, the response of grassland bird communities to management induced changes in the regional habitat mosaic are less well understood. Grazing by ungulates and fire regimes play an important role in defining the habitat mosaic in the Great Plains. We provide information on bird abundance, distribution, and habitat structure from similar sandhill prairie landscapes managed traditionally with grazing by cattle (Bos taurus) and by a dynamic bison (Bos bison)-plus-fire regime. Although the two management regimes are dissimilar, only a few differences were recorded in bird abundance, distribution, and habitat structure at the landscape scale. Our result may reflect either the inherent variability of sandhills prairie compared to the scale at which grassland birds perceive habitat, or the short time frame over which the dynamic bison-plus-fire regime has been in place. The specific habitat patches produced by fire and by intensive bison grazing do appear to have different bird communities and habitat structure at the local scale.