Louisiana Seaside Sparrows (Ammodramus maritimus fisheri) breed and winter exclusively in brackish and saline marshes along the northern Gulf of Mexico. Many Gulf Coast marshes, particularly in the Chenier Plain of southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, are burned intentionally in fall or winter as part of waterfowl management programs. Fire reportedly has negatively affected two Seaside Sparrow subspecies (A. m. nigrescens and A. m. mirabilis) in Florida, but there is no published information regarding effects of fire on A. m. fisheri. We compared abundance of territorial male Louisiana Seaside Sparrows, number of nesting activity indicators, and vegetation structure in paired burned and unburned plots in Chenier Plain marshes in southwestern Louisiana during the 1996 breeding season (April-July) before experimental winter burns (January 1997) and again during two breeding seasons post-burn (1997-1998). We found that abundance of male sparrows decreased in burned plots during the first breeding season post-burn, but was higher than that of unburned plots during the second breeding season post-burn. Indicators of nesting activity showed a similar but non-significant pattern in response to burning. Sparrow abundance and nesting activity seemingly are linked to dead vegetation cover, which was lower in burned plots during the first breeding season post-burn, but did not differ from that in unburned plots during the second breeding season post-burn. We recommend that marsh management plans in the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain integrate waterfowl and Seaside Sparrow management by maintaining a mosaic of burned and unburned marshes and allowing vegetation to recover for at least two growing seasons before reburning a marsh.
Additional publication details
Effects of winter marsh burning on abundance and nesting activity of Louisiana seaside sparrows in the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain