Grazing by livestock is often used to reduce litter, improve plant vigor, and alter plant species composition, but additional information is needed on the effects of these management practices on upland-nesting birds. Thus, we conducted an experimental study of the effect of grazing on nest density and nest success of upland sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda) in southcentral North Dakota from 1981 to 1987. Our experimental design consisted of 4 treatments and 1 control, each applied to 1 field in each of 3 study areas. The treatments represented options available to grassland managers: spring grazing, autumn grazing, autumn-and-spring grazing, season-long grazing, and control (ungrazed during the study). Nests (n = 342) were found by searching study areas with a cable-chain drag. Nest density was lower (P = 0.006) for treatments where cattle were present (spring, autumn-and-spring, and season-long) than where cattle were not present (autumn and control) during the nesting season. We concluded that grazing during the nesting season reduced the nest density of upland sandpipers. Nest success varied among years (P = 0.01) and was low in the first year of grazing and higher at the end of the study period. We found little evidence that the grazing treatment influenced nest success. We recommend that public lands with breeding populations of upland sandpipers include a complex of fields under various management practices, including fields undisturbed during the nesting season.
Additional publication details
Effects of grazing on nesting by upland sandpipers in southcentral North Dakota