Sutton Avian Research Center

Bartlesville, OK, United States

Sutton Avian Research Center

Bartlesville, OK, United States

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Winder V.L.,Benedictine College | Carrlson K.M.,Ducks Unlimited | Gregory A.J.,Bowling Green State University | Hagen C.A.,Oregon State University | And 11 more authors.
Ecosphere | Year: 2015

Conservation of wildlife depends on an understanding of the interactions between animal movements and key landscape factors. Habitat requirements of wide-ranging species often vary spatially, but quantitative assessment of variation among replicated studies at multiple sites is rare. We investigated patterns of space use for 10 populations of two closely related species of prairie grouse: Greater Prairie- Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) and Lesser Prairie-Chickens (T. pallidicinctus). Prairie chickens require large, intact tracts of native grasslands, and are umbrella species for conservation of prairie ecosystems in North America. We used resource utilization functions to investigate space use by female prairie chickens during the 6-month breeding season from March through August in relation to lek sites, habitat conditions, and anthropogenic development. Our analysis included data from 382 radio-marked individuals across a major portion of the extant range. Our project is a unique opportunity to study comparative space use of prairie chickens, and we employed standardized methods that facilitated direct comparisons across an ecological gradient of study sites. Median home range size of females varied ;10-fold across 10 sites (3.6-36.7 km2), and home ranges tended to be larger at sites with higher annual precipitation. Proximity to lek sites was a strong and consistent predictor of space use for female prairie chickens at all 10 sites. The relative importance of other predictors of space use varied among sites, indicating that generalized habitat management guidelines may not be appropriate for these two species. Prairie chickens actively selected for prairie habitats, even at sites where ;90% of the land cover within the study area was prairie. A majority of the females monitored in our study (.95%) had activity centers within 5 km of leks, suggesting that conservation efforts can be effectively concentrated near active lek sites. Our data on female space use suggest that lek surveys of male prairie chickens can indirectly assess habitat suitability for females during the breeding season. Lek monitoring and surveys for new leks provide information on population trends, but can also guide management actions aimed at improving nesting and brood-rearing habitats. Copyright: © 2015 Winder et al.


Patten M.A.,University of Oklahoma | Patten M.A.,Sutton Avian Research Center | Reinking D.L.,Sutton Avian Research Center | Wolfe D.H.,Sutton Avian Research Center
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2011

Numerous hypotheses have been developed to explain how a brood parasite selects a host nest into which it lays its eggs. Most hypotheses address various aspects of nest placement. We used an extensive dataset to tease apart the relative strength of various hypotheses associated with nest placement and timing. These data were from North American tallgrass prairie and included nearly 2,000 nests of 17 host species known to accept eggs of the brood parasitic Brown-headed cowbird Molothrus ater. Regression tree analyses, with host species as a categorical covariate built around successive logistic regressions, implied that the "edge effect" and "perch proximity" hypotheses, the latter assessed as distance to woody vegetation, received the strongest support. Hypotheses concerning nest height, livestock proximity, habitat density, nest exposure, laying date, and host clutch size received weaker or subsidiary support, the latter meaning that the hypotheses received significant support only after edge effects or distance to woody vegetation were accounted for first. Host species was associated significantly with parasitism rate, but host species was itself correlated with various vegetation and landscape variables that we assessed. Brood parasitism rate and nest height were associated non-linearly. In addition to a clear hierarchical pattern among factors associated with rates of parasitism, several key explanatory variables had marked interactions, such as prairie edge and extent of woody vegetation or nest height and nest exposure. Such interactions, including between host species and certain landscape and vegetation variables, such as nest height and distance from woody vegetation, suggest caution is warranted when assessing the various competing hypotheses, which are not mutually exclusive. © 2010 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.

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