Area requirements of grassland birds have not been studied except in tallgrass prairie. We studied the relation between both species-occurrence and density and patch size by conducting 699 fixed-radius point counts of 15 bird species on 303 restored grassland areas in nine counties in four northern Great Plains states. Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis), Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida), Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii), Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) were shown to favor larger grassland patches in one or more counties. Evidence of area sensitivity was weak or ambivalent for Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), and Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) preferred larger patches in some counties, and smaller patches in others. Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) and Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) tended to favor smaller grassland patches. Three species showed greater area sensitivity in counties where each species was more common. Five species demonstrated some spatial pattern of area sensitivity, either north to south or east to west. This study demonstrates the importance of replication in space; results from one area may not apply to others because of differences in study design, analytical methods, location relative to range of the species, and surrounding landscapes.
Additional publication details
Area requirements of grassland birds: a regional perspective