The role of landscape and habitat characteristics in limiting abundance of grassland nesting songbirds in an urban open space

Landscape and Urban Planning
By: , and 



We examine the relationships between abundance of grassland nesting songbirds observed in the Boulder Open Space, CO, USA and parameters that described landscape and habitat characteristics, in order to provide information for Boulder Open Space planners and managers. Data sets included bird abundance and plant species composition, collected during three breeding seasons (1994–1996), and landscape composition and configuration measures from a satellite image-derived land-cover map. We used regression quantiles to estimate the limitations imposed on bird abundance by urban encroachment and decreasing areas of grassland cover-types on the landscape, and habitat characteristics within 200 m diameter sample plots. After accounting for the effect of landscape grassland composition on four species (Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris), and Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)), change in abundance with proportion of urban area in the landscape was consistent with the pattern expected for limiting factors that were the active constraint at some times and places. Area of preferred grassland cover-types on the landscape was important for all species, and this remained the case when habitat variables were included in combined landscape–habitat models, with one exception (Western Meadowlark). Analysis of habitat variables enabled identification of important features at the local scale (e.g. shale plant communities in Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) habitat) that were indistinguishable using landscape data alone. Consideration of changes in the landscape due to urbanization and loss of grassland habitat are crucial for open space planning, and habitat features associated with localized and clumped bird species distributions provide important additional information. Widening the management focus to include areas that are not part of the open space system will facilitate a more complete understanding of potential limiting factor processes.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The role of landscape and habitat characteristics in limiting abundance of grassland nesting songbirds in an urban open space
Series title Landscape and Urban Planning
DOI 10.1016/S0169-2046(00)00044-X
Volume 48
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 18 p.
First page 65
Last page 82
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details