The Great Plains have been subjected to degradation and fragmentation due to the conversion to cultivation and encroachment of invasive noxious weeds and exotic plant species. This ecosystem provides essential habitat for many wildlife species, especially grassland birds. Grassland birds inhabiting the Great Plains have declined more severely than any other guild of wildlife over the past 50 years.
Biologists and land managers are interested in developing land management strategies to slow or cease the loss of grassland birds. We teamed with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to study four species of grassland songbird species that have experienced severe population declines. Our study aims to better understand factors influencing the observed population declines of Baird’s sparrows, chestnut-collared longspurs, McCown’s longspurs, and Sprague’s pipits.
Our research goal is to find associations between the abundance and reproductive success of these species and vegetation structure and composition at a scale that is relevant to landscape management. We hope that our findings will be used to inform future management strategies that improve or create habitat which can support these species in high abundance and with high reproductive success.