Tim A. Schaid

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science


A 2 year study was conducted to investigate possible differences in density and diversity of birds in relation to distance from mining haul roads and various aged mine spoils. Winter bird surveys and breeding bird counts were conducted during 1977 and 1978. Bird density and diversity were estimated and compared between the following habitat areas: old spoils (mined ≥20 years ago, unreclaimed), new spoils (mined ≤20 years ago, reclaimed) and unmined areas. Within unmined areas density and diversity of birds 100m, 300m, 500m, and 900m from a mining haul road were compared to detect differences in density and diversity with distance from the haul road. Density of common bird species within mined and unmined areas was compared. Forward stepwise multiple regression was used to identify groups of physical and/or vegetation variables that accounted for variation in bird density and diversity indices. Management suggestions for reclamation of strip mined areas are given. Horned larks (Eremophila alpestres) was the only species observed during the 1977 winter survey within the old spoils, new spoils and unmined areas. Highest horned lark density occurred in new spoils. Horned larks, common redpolls (Acanthis flammea) and snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were observed during the 1978 winter survey. All 3 species were observed in new spoils and snow huntings were the most abundant. Horned larks and common redpolls were observed in old spoils with common redpolls most abundant. Snow buntings and horned larks were observed in unmined areas. Snow buntings were the most common species in unmined areas. Breeding bird counts indicated that the highest bird diversity occurred on reclaimed mine spoils both years. The highest bird density occurred on reclaimed areas in 1977. Bird densities in unmined areas and reclaimed spoils were similar in 1978. The lowest bird density and diversity consistently occurred in the old unreclaimed mine spoils. Vesper sparrows (Pooecetes graminius) were the most common bird species in unmined areas but were less numerous in reclaimed areas because of the absence of shrub cover. Orthogonal T-tests were used to test for differences in bird density and diversity at 100m, 300m, 500m, and 900m interval from a mining haul road. Differences in bird diversity were not significant at the 10% level except in 1978 between the 900m interval and the pooled 100m, 300m, and 500m intervals. Bird density increased with distance from the haul road in 1978 but not in 1977. Horned larks and brewer’s sparrows (Spizella breweri) showed significant (p≤.10) increases in density with distance from the haul road. Reclamation of strip mined land resulted in bird densities similar to bird densities in unmined areas. Diversity in reclaimed areas was higher than in unmined areas. Vesper and brewer’s sparrows were uncommon on reclaimed land because of the absence of shrubs. Birds did not appear to be affected by presence of mining haul roads with the exception of horned larks and brewer’s sparrows.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Bird populations
Strip mining -- Environmental aspects


Includes bibliographical references (pages 94-97)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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