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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Daniel E. Hubbard


birds, nestings, south dakota, seasons, alfalfa


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is the predominant hay crop planted in South Dakota with over 1.04 million ha harvested annually between 1998 and 2002. Alfalfa fields are notorious for attracting grassland nesting birds only to have their nests destroyed by mowing operations. Few studies have been done comparing nest success and densities in Conservation Reserve Program fields (CRP) and alfalfa in South Dakota. Objectives of the study were to: (1) determine avian nest success and densities in dense nesting cover (DNC), warm-season natives (WSN), and alfalfa in paired field comparisons; and (2) compare vegetative and microclimate characteristics of DNC, WSN, and alfalfa in paired field comparisons. Paired fields of DNC/alfalfa and WSN/alfalfa were selected and 10% of the smaller field’s area was searched with an equal area being searched in the larger field for avian nests. Searching was conducted using the “hockey stick” search method. Dabbling duck and passerine nest numbers were insufficient for statistical comparison. Ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) nest densities were higher in DNC and WSN than in alfalfa. Total number of pheasant eggs hatched was also higher in DNC and WSN than in alfalfa. Nest success was not different between field-types. More pheasants nested in warmer, less windy, and less humid environments that had taller vegetative structure. My results indicate that DNC or WSN planted next to alfalfa attracts nesting birds. DNC or WSN adjacent to alfalfa are especially important for birds looking to renest. Making either cover type available on the landscape adjacent to alfalfa will increase secure nesting habitat for grassland nesting birds.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Conservation Reserve Program (U.S.)
Birds -- Nests -- South Dakota
Birds -- Habitat -- Conservation -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 46-52)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2006 Marcus E. Rock. All rights reserved.