Implementation of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) altered the interspersion and abundance of patches of different land-cover types in landscapes of the southeastern United States. Because northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) are experiencing significant population declines throughout most of their range, including the Southeast, it is critical to understand the impacts of landscape-scale changes in habitat on their reproductive rates. Our objective was to identify components of landscape structure important in predicting nest site selection by bobwhites at different spatial scales in the Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia. We used a Geographic Information System (GIS) and spatial analysis software to calculate metrics of landscape structure near bobwhite nest sites. Logistic regression was used to model the relationship of nest sites to structure within the surrounding landscape at 4 spatial scales. We found that patch density and open-canopy planted pine were consistently important predictor variables at multiple scales, and other variables were important at various scales. The density of different patch types could be increased by thinning rows of pines in large monotypic stands of closed-canopy planted pine stands. Thinning and creating openings in CRP pine plantations should provide increased nesting opportunities for bobwhites. We interpret the support for other variables in our analysis as an indication that various patch configuration lead to different combinations of landscape structure that provide an acceptable range of habitat conditions for bobwhites.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of the landscape surrounding northern bobwhite nest sites: A multiscale analysis