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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Reserve Design For Grasslands:
Considerations For Bird Populations

Conclusions and Recommendations

The overriding conclusion from studies reviewed here is that we need to integrate local and landscape scales to maximize the efficacy of management efforts. On a local scale, woody vegetation within or bordering prairie fragments should be reduced, because it attracts nest predators and consequently reduces nesting success. Because patch size influences both density and nesting success of grassland-nesting birds, grassland reserves should be large (>100 ha) if they are to support characteristic prairie avifauna. Small prairies, however, can still support healthy populations of grassland birds if they are surrounded by other grassland habitat. Priority should be given to small habitat patches located in landscapes suitable to grassland-nesting birds than to similar patches in forested landscapes. Ultimately, we must manage not only the prairie fragment itself, but also need to change the landscape surrounding a prairie fragment to positively affect grassland bird populations. A study now underway is focusing on the combination of patch size and landscape features as influences on the viability of tallgrass prairie birds (Winter et al. 1999).


We appreciate comments on earlier drafts of this article by Robert Cox, Jr., Diane Granfors, and Abby Powell.
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