• conservation buffer;
  • CP33;
  • farmland birds;
  • field border;
  • Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds;
  • Mississippi Alluvial Valley;
  • National Conservation Buffer Initiative;
  • wintering sparrows

Abstract: Transformations of agricultural practices in the southeastern United States have drastically reduced preexisting quantities of strip-cover habitat along field margins. The National Conservation Buffer Initiative has promoted the establishment of herbaceous field borders to restore wildlife benefits once provided by such habitat. We evaluated effects of native warm-season grass field border establishment and width on winter bird response. Narrow (approx. 8-m) field borders represented a marginal improvement to non-bordered margins that were cropped ditch to ditch, whereas wide (approx. 30-m) borders significantly enhanced total avian conservation value, abundance, species richness, and sparrow abundance compared to non- or narrow borders. Furthermore, presence of wide borders altered bird use of row-crop fields. We observed increased sparrow (Emberizidae) abundances in agricultural fields adjacent to wide borders, which likely resulted from enhanced waste grain foraging opportunities. Given these benefits to wintering farmland birds, we advocate the integration of herbaceous field border habitat in agricultural landscapes, particularly borders of enhanced width.