Date of this Version
Proceedings of the 23rd North American Prairie Conference, August 2012, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg
The Prairie Naturalist 46: 110-119. August 2014
Much of the remaining prairie in Canada is grazed by cattle and most grassland birds of conservation concern occupy such habitat. Identifying vegetation features related to grassland bird habitat selection that can be easily understood and measured by professional range managers and livestock producers on private lands is an important step towards conserving and restoring remaining grasslands. We conducted grassland bird surveys on 28 native mixed-grass prairie pastures in southern Saskatchewan to determine whether grazing system type (season-long vs. rotational) influenced avian abundance. Grazing system had no influence on abundance of grassland passerines. Conservation agencies that promote particular grazing systems without consideration of recommended stocking rates, season of use and duration and frequency of grazing will likely fall short of achieving their objectives. Our results also demonstrate that intensive and rapid assessments of rangeland vegetation (i.e. range condition and visual estimation of plant vigor and residual cover, respectively) commonly used by professional range managers and ranchers may be useful indicators of abundance for horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii), Baird’s sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii), and Chestnut-collared longspur (Calcarius ornatus). Range condition strongly influenced Baird’s sparrow and Sprague’s pipit abundance at the pasture level and therefore may be a useful tool for identifying important breeding habitat for these species.