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Keywords:

  • grassland birds;
  • great plains;
  • lark sparrow;
  • mourning dove;
  • nest survival;
  • prescribed burning;
  • shortgrass prairie;
  • woody encroachment

Abstract

Shrubs, such as mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and cholla (Opuntia spp.), now dominate fire-suppressed grasslands in southwestern North America. Responses of birds to prescribed burning of the shortgrass prairie in this region are poorly understood. We examined daily survival rates of mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) and lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) nests in an experimental landscape (4,811 ha) of spatially replicated, inter-annual fire frequencies (burning every 2 yr, 4 yr, or 10 yr) near Amarillo, Texas. Herbaceous habitat structure was most developed in infrequently burned plots, but shrub densities were less variable among the burn treatments. We modeled daily nest survival (DSR) against burn frequency, shrub density at nest sites, and nest stage (incubation or nestling). Daily survival of mourning dove nests was not well-related to any measured covariate, but lark sparrow DSR was negatively related to the duration of inter-annual burn frequency. In semiarid grasslands heavily inundated with shrubs, prescribed burning may positively influence the nest success of some bird species. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.