Effects of grazing strategy on facultative grassland bird nesting on native grassland pastures of the Mid-South USA

Byron R. Buckley, Christopher M. Lituma, Patrick D. Keyser, Elizabeth D. Holcomb, Ray Smith, John J. Morgan, Roger D. Applegate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding how livestock grazing strategies of native warm season grasses (NWSG) can impact facultative grassland bird nesting can provide insight for conservation efforts. We compared pre and post treatment effects of rotational grazing (ROT) and patch-burn grazing (PBG) for facultative grassland bird species nest success and nest- site selection on NWSG pastures at three Mid-South research sites. We established 14, 9.7 ha NWSG pastures and randomly assigned each to either ROT or PBG and monitored avian nest-site selection and nest success, 2014-2016. We collected nesting and vegetation data in 2014, before treatment implementation, as an experimental pre-treatment. We implemented treatments across all research sites in spring 2015. We used a step-wise model selection framework to estimate treatment effect for ROT or PBG on avian nest daily survival rate (DSR) and resource selection function (RSF) at the temporal scale and within-field variables. Daily survival rates were 0.93% (SE D 0.006) for field sparrow (Spizella pusilla), 0.96% (SE D 0.008) for red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and 0.92% (SE D 0.01) for indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea). Model support for PBG treatment and vegetation height were indicated as negative and positive influences for field sparrow DSR, respectively. Red-winged blackbirds' DSR were negatively influenced byROTwhile vegetation height positively affected DSR, and DSR for indigo bunting did not differ among treatments. Combined RSF models indicated nest-site selection for all species was positively related to vegetation height and only weakly associated with other within-field variables. We provide evidence that ROT and/or PBG effects vary by species for DSR for these three facultative grassland birds, and vegetation characteristics affected their nest-site selection in the Mid-South USA. A lack of disturbance in Mid-South grasslands can lead to higher successional stages (i.e., mix shrub-grassland), but some combination of ROT, PBG, and unburned/ungrazed areas can provide adequate nesting habitat on small pasture lands (∼1.8 -7.8 ha) for various facultative grassland birds and potentially offer the opportunity to simultaneously maintain livestock production and grassland bird nesting habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13968
StatePublished - Sep 28 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Buckley et al.


  • Grassland birds
  • Native warm-season grasses
  • Nest-site selection
  • Nesting
  • Patch-burn grazing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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