Avian use of black-tailed prairie dog colonies in shortgrass prairie

James D. Ray, Mark C. Wallace, Rachel E. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Downward trends in populations of many grassland bird species are of conservation concern. Declines in black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) populations result in loss of habitat for birds and other species associated with their colonies. We measured abundance, diversity, and species composition of avian communities on prairie dog colonies and noncolony sites in the Texas Panhandle. More resident species (P < 0.001) occurred on prairie dog colonies than on noncolony areas whereas, more nearctic-neoptropical migrants (P = 0.003) and nearctic-temperate migrants (P < 0.001) occurred on noncolony sites. Total avian abundance was greater (P < 0.001) on noncolony sites than at prairie dog colonies, and differed by season (P < 0.001). Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica), red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), horned larks (Eremophila alpestris), and chipping sparrows (Spizella passerina) were more abundant on noncolony sites than on prairie dog colonies. Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), Cassin's sparrow (Peucaea cassinnii), and lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) abundances were greater on prairie dog colonies. Vegetative alterations made by prairie dogs may not influence bird populations as much in these shortgrass prairies as has been reported in mixed-grass prairies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalGreat Plains Research
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Birds
  • Black-tailed prairie dogs
  • Habitat
  • Shortgrass
  • Texas panhandle

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