• Grazing and Songbird Nest Survival in Southwestern Saskatchewan

      Lusk, Jennifer Suzanne; Koper, Nicola (Society for Range Management, 2013-07-01)
      Grassland songbird populations are declining, and one reason for this might be livestock management practices in native prairies. Although cattle grazing is a common practice in native mixed-grass prairie, little research has been conducted to date to determine its impact on prairie songbird nest survival. During the summers of 2006-2007, we examined the effects of low- to moderate-intensity cattle grazing typical of the region and nest site vegetation structure on nest survival of five species of ground-nesting songbirds in native mixed-grass prairie in southwestern Saskatchewan, Canada. There was no significant effect of grazing (P>0.10) on Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii), Baird’s sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys), or chestnut-collared longspur (Calcarius ornatus) nest survival. All five species used denser vegetation than was generally available (P <0.001). Sprague’s pipit nest survival was negatively correlated with vegetation density (P=0.055) and litter depth (P=0.033), and vesper sparrow nest survival was positively correlated with increased visibility from above (P=0.056), but nest survival of the other species was independent of vegetation structure. Our results suggest that low- to moderate intensity grazing is consistent with the conservation needs of ground-nesting songbirds in mixed-grass prairies of southwestern Saskatchewan.