Invasive plants are a growing concern worldwide for conservation of native habitats. In endangered wet meadow habitat in the Upper Midwestern United States, reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is a recognized problem and its prevalence is more widespread than the better-known invasive wetland plant purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Although resource managers are concerned about the effect of reed canary grass on birds, this is the first study to report how common wet meadow birds use habitat in relation to reed canary grass cover and dominance. We examined three response variables: territory placement, size of territories, and numbers of territories per plot in relation to cover of reed canary grass. Territory locations for Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) and Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) were positively associated with reed canary grass cover, while those for Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) were not. Only Swamp Sparrow (M. georgiana) territory locations were negatively associated with reed canary grass cover and dominance (which indicated a tendency to place territories where there was no reed canary grass or where many plant species occurred with reed canary grass). Swamp Sparrow territories were positively associated with vegetation height density and litter depth. Common Yellowthroat territories were positively associated with vegetation height density and shrub cover. Song Sparrow territories were negatively associated with litter depth. Reed canary grass cover within territories was not associated with territory size for any of these four bird species. Territory density per plot was not associated with average reed canary grass cover of plots for all four species. Sedge Wrens and Song Sparrows may not respond negatively to reed canary grass because this grass is native to wet meadows of North America, and in the study area it merely replaces other tall lush plants. Avoidance of reed canary grass by Swamp Sparrows may be mediated through their preference for wet areas where reed canary grass typically does not dominate. ?? 2007, The Society of Wetland Scientists.
Additional publication details
Breeding bird territory placement in riparian wet meadows in relation to invasive reed canary grass, Phalaris arundinacea