Effects of Plant Cover Improvements for Nesting Ducks on Grassland Songbirds
Keywords:ducks, nesting, plant cover, grassland, songbirds, Québec
AbstractSeveral islands located along the St. Lawrence River in southern Quebec have been used as natural pastureland by cattle for decades. Recently, a rest-rotation grazing system and dense nesting cover were established on four islands near Varennes to improve duck nesting conditions. The effects of these two plant cover improvements on the abundance of grassland songbirds were assessed through four treatments: (1) idle fields with no vegetation improvement but exclusion of cattle (IDLE), (2) improved pastures with seeding of forage plants for cattle (IMPP), (3) dense seeded nesting cover fields improved for ducks and where cattle were excluded (DNC), and (4) natural or unimproved pastures grazed by cattle after the duck nesting season (UIPP). The overall abundance of birds was similar among treatments before cover improvements as well as two years after. The abundance of Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) was significantly greater in DNC and UIPP two years after treatments while Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were more abundant in DNC and IDLE. Plant cover improvements had little impact on Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) abundance. Furthermore, few annual or treatment-related changes were observed for less abundant species. On the short-term, duck nesting cover improvements in natural pastures did not have any major effect on grassland songbirds on Varennes islands.
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