Wildlife managers in the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain of Louisiana and Texas frequently burn marshes during winter to improve habitat for wintering waterfowl and furbearers. Such fires dramatically alter vegetation structure and cover, although such changes are generally temporary. However, if vegetation cover does not recover sufficiently by the start of the subsequent breeding season, nests of marsh birds could be exposed to increased predation rates. We examined effects of burning on 2 measures of vegetation structure and on 2 types of artificial bird nests during breeding seasons (May and June) before and after experimental winter burns (December and January). We found that vegetation structure did not differ between burned and non-burned marshes at 5 months post-burn. Similarly, depredation rates of artificial sparrow and duck nests did not differ between burned and non-burned marshes during the post-burn breeding season. We recommend that managers complete burning programs by the end of January so that sufficient nesting cover develops before the start of the breeding season.
Additional publication details
Success of artificial bird nests in burned Gulf Coast Chenier Plain marshes