Rotational grazing has been proposed as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for minimizing runoff in Wisconsin agricultural riparian areas. The influence of this land management practice on grassland birds has not been evaluated in relation to more traditional agricultural land management systems in Midwestern riparian areas. This study compared the grassland bird community in riparian areas in Wisconsin that were rotationally grazed to 2 common land use practices along streams in Wisconsin: continuously grazed pastures and rowcrop fields with 10-m-wide ungrazed buffer strips located along the stream. We calculated total number of birds, the Berger-Parker Index of Dominance, and number of birds ha-1 for each site. Vegetation variables used were height-density, litter depth, and percent bare ground. Bird species richness, species dominance, and density did not differ among land use types. In contrast, grassland bird species of management concern [Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis Gmelin), Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna L.), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus L.)] were found on continuous and rotational pastures but very rarely or never occurred on buffer strips. Contrary to previous research, however, rotationally grazed pastures did not support more of these species than continuously grazed pastures. Bird density was related to vegetation structure, with higher densities found on sites with deeper litter. Within the pasture land use types, there were no consistent differences between species richness and density near the stream (<10 m) and away (>10 m).
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Grassland birds associated with agricultural riparian practices in southwestern Wisconsin