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Tuesday, January 30 • 8:40am - 9:00am
SYMPOSIA-08: Secretive Marshbird Response to Fire and Grazing in Wetlands of Western Minnesota

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AUTHORS. Nina Hill, University of Minnesota; David E. Anderson, US Geological Survey Minnesota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit; Douglas H. Johnson, US Geological Survey; Tom Cooper, US Fish and Wildlife Service

ABSTRACT. It is unclear how marshbirds within Prairie Pothole Region of west-central Minnesota have responded to impacts influenced by invasions of non-native plants to wetlands, nor to the effects of management activities aimed at mitigating those invasions.  To evaluate how birds respond to long-term vegetation management, we conducted standardized surveys at 113 points to assess abundances of 6 marshbird species on lands associated with 3 levels of management histories (Low intensity, moderate intensity, and High intensity) of burning and grazing during 2000-2015.  During 2015 and 2016 we conducted 467 surveys and recorded 660 observations of sora (Porzana carolina; 41% of detections), American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), Virginia rail (Rallus limicola), least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), and yellow rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis).  To derive an estimate of density at each survey point for the 4 most frequently detected species (all but least bittern and yellow rail) we incorporated detection probability as a function of distance and available wetland area.  We examined models of estimated density as a function of management history, and observed weak patterns in this relationship.  We also examined biotic and abiotic factors at different spatial scales as predictors of marshbird density.  We found that marshbird species’ densities were related to different factors at different scales.  Size and amount of wetland cover in the landscape was positively related to American bittern and pied-billed grebe densities, but negatively related to sora density.  Pied-billed grebe and Virginia rail densities were also closely related to fine-scale characteristics of vegetation.  Our results suggest that density of some species of marshbirds was associated with high intensity of invasive vegetation management, indicating that a combination of fire and grazing influenced marshbird habitat quality.  

Tuesday January 30, 2018 8:40am - 9:00am CST