Wintering Henslow's sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) populations rely on lands managed with prescribed burning, but the effects of various burn regimes on their overwinter survival are unknown. We studied wintering Henslow's sparrows in coastal pine savannas at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Jackson County, Mississippi, USA, during January and February 2001 and 2002. We used the known-fate modeling procedure in program MARK to evaluate the effects of burn age (1 or 2 growing seasons elapsed), burn season (growing, dormant), and calendar year on the survival rates of 83 radiomarked Henslow's sparrows. We found strong evidence that Henslow's sparrow survival rates differed by burn age (with higher survival in recently burned sites) and by year (with lower survival rates in 2001 likely because of drought conditions). We found some evidence that survival rates also differed by bum season (with higher survival in growing-season sites), although the effects of burn season were only apparent in recently burned sites. Avian predation was the suspected major cause of mortality (causing 6 of 14 deaths) with 1 confirmed loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) depredation. Our results indicated that recently burned savannas provide high-quality wintering habitats and suggested that managers can improve conditions for wintering Henslow's sparrows by burning a large percentage of savannas each year.
Additional publication details
Henslow's sparrow winter-survival estimates and response to prescribed burning