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Avian Inventory of Tallgrass Prairie
National Preserve, Kansas, 1998-1999

Results


We identified 132 bird species within the preserve boundaries combining point and transect surveys and incidental observations (Table 1). Fifteen species were considered grassland-associated species. We found direct evidence of nesting for 38 species including six of the grassland-associated species. Thirty-four additional species are believed to nest in the preserve, given the observations of singing males or general knowledge of the distribution of species within the Flint Hills (Table 1). Two species breeding at TAPR, European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and house sparrow (Melamprosops domesticus), are exotic species.

Point Counts

A total of 52 species was recorded during breeding bird point counts including eleven grassland-associated species. Twenty species were found in burned and grazed prairie, eight in unburned and ungrazed prairie, 21 in brome fields, 31 at Fox Creek, 29 at Palmer Creek, and 28 in the riparian/prairie habitats (Tables 2 and 3). The five most abundant (relative to total birds seen within 100-m radius points) breeding species at TAPR were all grassland-associated: eastern meadowlark (19.0%), grasshopper sparrow (14.8%), dickcissel (11.7%), brown-headed cowbird (11.1%), and upland sandpiper (6.0%). Eastern meadowlark (EAME), grasshopper sparrow (GRSP), brown-headed cowbird (BHCO), and upland sandpiper (UPSA) were the four most abundant species in burned and grazed prairie, while dickcissel (DICK), eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, and northern bobwhite (NOBO) were the most abundant in unburned and ungrazed prairie (Fig. 3). Dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, and red-winged blackbird (RWBL) were most abundant in brome fields. In forested habitats black-capped chickadee (BCCH), eastern tufted titmouse (ETTI), indigo bunting (INBU) and dickcissel were most abundant at Fox Creek, while black-capped chickadee, brown-headed cowbird, blue jay (BLJA), and dickcissel were most abundant at Palmer Creek (Fig 3). Species diversity (number of species) in the gallery forest was higher at Fox Creek (mean = 10.2, SE = 0.8) than Palmer Creek (mean = 7.4, SE = 0.8) during the point-counts period (t = 2.55, df = 15, P = 0.02).

Transects

We recorded 72 species on transect counts including 11 grassland-associated species. We found 17 species in burned and grazed prairie, 35 in unburned and ungrazed prairie (including the Ranch Headquarters cedar grove), 13 in brome fields, 39 at Fox Creek, 24 at Palmer Creek, and 47 in riparian/prairie habitats (Tables 4 and 5). Bird density (average number of birds per hectare) was higher at Fox Creek gallery forest (14.9 ± 4.4 birds/ha) than Palmer Creek gallery forest (2.9 ± 3.1 birds/ha) over the course of one year (t = 2.41, df = 5, P = 0.06) (Fig. 4). Also, species diversity was significantly higher at Fox Creek (15.6 ± 1.6) than Palmer Creek (5.0 ± 1.2) gallery forest (t = 4.46, df = 5, P = 0.007). Average bird density at TAPR varied seasonally and peaked in November (Fig. 5).

bar graph of relative abundance of breeding bird species

Figure 4.   Relative abundance (% of total) of the four most common breeding bird species found in the major habitats at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas, 1998-1999.

bar graph showing density of birds per habitat type
Figure 5.   Density (mean birds per hectare ± SE) of birds per habitat type found on strip-transects at Tallgrass Prairie Naitonal Preserve, Kansas, 1998-1999.

Habitat

Unburned and ungrazed prairie had the highest percentage of litter and grass cover and riparian/prairie habitat had the highest percentage of canopy cover, bare ground, forb cover, and woody plant cover of the bird points (Table 6). No canopy cover or woody plant cover was recorded for burned and grazed prairie, unburned and ungrazed prairie, or brome field bird points. Percent bare ground was lowest in unburned and ungrazed prairie, percent litter and grass cover were lowest in riparian/prairie, the lowest percent forb cover was observed in brome field. Litter depth was deepest in unburned an ungrazed prairie and lowest in burned and grazed prairie. Grass height was tallest in the brome field and shortest in burned and grazed prairie. Forb height was tallest in unburned and ungrazed prairie and shortest in riparian/prairie habitat. Vertical and horizontal plant density was greatest in unburned and ungrazed prairie and brome field, grass density was greatest in burned and grazed prairie, and forb density was greatest in riparian/prairie habitat. Spatial variation in grass height was relatively similar among the habitat types but variation in forb height and maximum plant height was greatest in the riparian/prairie and least in the unburned and ungrazed prairie. Spatial variation in vertical plant density was greatest in the brome field and lowest in the burned and grazed prairie. Spatial variation in horizontal plant density was greatest in the riparian/prairie and lowest in the burned and grazed prairie.

Density of birds found on strip-transects at TAPR
Figure 6.   Density (mean birds per hectare ± SE) of birds found on strip-transects during one year at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas, during two months in 1998 and four months in 1999.

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