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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kenneth F. Higgins


Grassland fragmentation to increase agricultural production is decreasing habitats for grassland birds at alarming rates in the northern Great Plains. Establishment of planted woodlands (e.g., shelterbelts and windbreaks) has further fragmented remaining grasslands and created abrupt boundaries that exacerbate edge effects. My objectives were to determine the effects of landscape fragmentation on woodland bird communities. We also compared the importance of planted versus natural woodlands (e.g., riparian and wooded draws) to evaluate whether a trade-off exists whereby planted woodlands create new habitat for forest birds of management concern despite the loss of grassland bird habitat. The study area encompassed the portion of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, excluding the Black Hills. A stratified sample was used to randomly select woodlands (n=271) within strata defined by landscape (nonfragmented-fragmented), woodland type (planted and natural), size of available woodlands and woodland tree type (deciduous, evergreen, and mixed). Bird surveys were conducted with fixed-width belt transects from mid-May thru mid-July of 1999 and 2000. Overall, 63 avian species were recorded, of which 42 species were considered breeding in woodland habitats. Woodland obligate and Neotropical migrant species richness values were higher in nonfragmented landscapes whereas more species of edge and generalists were observed in fragmented landscapes. Greater vegetative diversity of natural woodlands attracted significantly more species of woodland obligates and Neotropical migrants while edge and generalist species were more abundant in planted woodlands. More species of woodland obligates were found in larger patches of both woodland types (planted, natural), while woodland edge species were more abundant in larger planted woodland patches. Edge species density was significantly lower in the larger natural woodlands and generalist had the highest density in small patches of planted and natural woodlands. Woodland obligate and edge species preferred either deciduous or mixed woodlands, while 50.1% of the individual birds in evergreen woodlands were generalist species. In the Midwest, planted woodlands are established to buffer the weather conditions and to provide habitat for game species such as ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). If nongame woodland birds are the management goal, emphasis should be placed on conserving natural woodlands, but if planted woodlands are chosen, they should be as large and as wide as possible.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Birds -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Forest birds -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Fragmented landscapres -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 81-86)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2001 Kyle W. Kelsey. All rights reserved.