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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


avian nesting, habitat, south dakota, grassland, planting


Agriculture has changed the prairie landscape of the Midwest and Great Plains. As a result populations of many grassland bird species have declined. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has restored more than 14 million hectares of prairie and idle grassland. Studies indicate that warm-season native grass plantings (WSN) generally provide good winter cover. Recently a trend favoring WSN has emerged, but limited information exists on nesting density and success of cool-season grass-legume plantings (dense nesting cover [DNC]) versus WSN. Fields of DNC and WSN were selected in pairs (< 1-km apart) and 10% of each field’s area was searched for avian nests. Within each pair, field age and size were kept as similar as possible. Precipitation in 2002 was below the 30-year average and in 2003 approached the 30-year average. Early in the season of 2002, ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) nest densities were higher in DNC than WSN, and as the 2002 nesting season progressed, dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) and red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) nest densities were higher in DNC than WSN. In 2003, no differences in nest densities were detected for any species. Passerine nest numbers were insufficient to statistically analyze. Results indicate that avian nesting density in DNC is at least equal to or greater than that in WSN. Nest success was not different between field-types for either year. Other studies noted that monotypic stands of certain grass species were generally of little value to wildlife, and that vegetative species diversity and vegetative lateral cover was probably a key component of avian use during the nesting season. My results indicate that cool-season grasses with a legume component (promoting lateral cover [structural diversity]) may attract nesting birds during dry springs. Therefore, structurally diverse plantings of DNC may be beneficial as nesting cover during dry springs, whereas WSN plantings may be as attractive as DNC to nesting birds during wet springs. Native prairie contains both cool- and warm-season grasses and legumes. Currently it is difficult and expensive to obtain native cool-season grass and legume seed. Making both cover types available on the landscape may be the best strategy, rather than favoring either type for management. A mixture of the two could be planted and evaluated on an experimental basis.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Birds -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Birds -- Nests -- South Dakota
Grassland restoration -- South Dakota
Grasses -- Planting -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 37-41)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2004 Mark B. Rohlfing. All rights reserved.