Breeding bird response to cattle grazing of a cottonwood bottomland

Journal of Wildlife Management
By:  and 



We studied avian habitat relationships and the impact of grazing on breeding densities of selected migratory birds in a plains cottonwood (Populus sargentii) bottomland in northeastern Colorado. Five 16-ha plots served as controls and 5 were fenced and fall-grazed October-November 1982-84 following a season of pre-treatment study in the spring of 1982. We focused our analysis on bird species directly dependent on the grass-herb-shrub layer of vegetation for foraging, nesting, or both. The guild included house wren (Troglodytes aedon), brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), American robin (Turdus migratorius), common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens), and rufous-sided towhee (Pipilo erythropthalmus). Moderate, late-fall grazing had no detectable impact on calculated densities of any of the 6 species, implying that proper seasonal grazing of a cottonwood floodplain is, at least initially (3 years), compatible with migratory bird use of a site for breeding. Habitat associations suggested that common yellowthroats and yellow-breasted chats were most unique and most likely to respond negatively to higher levels of grazing. We suggest that these latter 2 species are appropriate ecological indicators of the quality of ground-shrub vegetation as breeding bird habitats in lowland floodplains of the Great Plains.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Breeding bird response to cattle grazing of a cottonwood bottomland
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.2307/3801661
Volume 51
Issue 1
Year Published 1987
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Wildlife Management
First page 230
Last page 237