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Keywords:

  • buffelgrass;
  • Colinus virginianus;
  • Eragrostis lehmanniana;
  • introduced grasses;
  • lehmann lovegrass;
  • northern bobwhite;
  • Pennisetum ciliare;
  • saddlepoint approximation;
  • South Texas plains

Abstract

Introduced grasses may affect diversity of native fauna and flora adversely, and disrupt ecosystem processes. Many rangelands in South Texas have been seeded to or have been colonized by buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana), perennial bunchgrasses native to Africa. The objective of this research was to quantify impacts that these 2 species of introduced grasses may have on northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) habitat use on South Texas rangelands during the breeding period (Apr–Aug). We evaluated the effects of buffelgrass and Lehmann lovegrass on northern bobwhite nest habitat (n = 35 nests) and general habitat use sites (n = 86 radiomarked quail) with logistic regression and habitat selection functions based on simple saddlepoint approximations. Buffelgrass was used as a nesting substrate at 11% of nests; however, vegetation height and visual obstruction between 1 cm and 30 cm were the best predictors of nest site use. Areas of introduced grass coverage ≥15–20% were avoided by northern bobwhites at general habitat use organism-centered points, but not at nest site use points. Introduced grass coverage and forb coverage were the best predictors of general habitat use, and bobwhites avoided areas with ≥18% introduced grass cover. These results suggest that avoidance of areas with extensive introduced grass cover may indicate a reduction in usable habitat space for northern bobwhite in the western South Texas plains. Maintaining native grass stands while implementing localized control of introduced grasses could be used as a strategy to promote habitat for northern bobwhites. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.