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Nest Density and Nesting Success of Birds in Roadsides Adjacent to Rowcrop Fields

Martha Camp and Louis B. Best
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 131, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 347-358
DOI: 10.2307/2426260
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2426260
Page Count: 12
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Nest Density and Nesting Success of Birds in Roadsides Adjacent to Rowcrop Fields
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Abstract

Intensive rowcrop farming in the Midwest has eliminated much wildlife grassland habitat; yet some linear habitat remains in areas such as roadsides. To determine the importance of roadsides to nesting birds in intensively farmed areas, this study evaluated nest densities and nesting success of birds in roadsides in central Iowa during 1990 and 1991. One hundred and twenty nests of eight species were found in 34 roadsides (10.2 ha). Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) nest density was greatest in roadsides with tall dense vegetation; vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) nests were most dense in areas of sparse vegetation. Gray partridge (Perdix perdix) and ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) nest densities were greatest in roadsides with the most residue cover. Red-winged blackbirds usually placed their nests in the bottom or in the fencerow of a roadside; all vesper sparrows nested in the short vegetation of the roadside nearest the road. Daily survival rates for the red-winged blackbird and for all species combined were 0.9471 and 0.9428, respectively Fifty-five percent of red-wing nests and 52% of the nests of all species were destroyed by predation. Red-wing nests placed in forbs, shrubs and the fence were more successful than those built in grasses other than reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinace). Roadside management which includes seeding native grasses and forbs in roadsides may make these areas more attractive to birds that use such habitats for nesting. Fences were used by some birds in place of vegetation for nest support and should be retained in roadsides. Periodic prescribed burns in roadsides would increase the vigor and structural heterogeneity of roadside vegetation; mowing roadsides should be discouraged except at the roadside shoulder.

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