Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birds In Flint Hills Of Kansas, Oklahoma Face Population Decline Despite Large Habitat

Date:
March 3, 2009
Source:
Kansas State University
Summary:
The wide-open spaces of the Flint Hills may no longer provide a secure home on the range for several familiar grassland birds, according to research by a Kansas State University ecologist and her colleagues. The researchers found that three bird species common to the Flint Hills region of Kansas and Oklahoma are experiencing serious population decline in the face of extensive land-management practices like annual burning and widespread grazing.

A dickcissel, eastern meadowlark and grasshopper sparrow.
Credit: Photos courtesy of David A. Rintoul, K-State Division of Biology

The wide-open spaces of the Flint Hills, Kansas, U.S. may no longer provide a secure home on the range for several familiar grassland birds, according to research by a Kansas State University ecologist and her colleagues.

The researchers found that three bird species common to the Flint Hills region of Kansas and Oklahoma are experiencing serious population decline in the face of extensive land-management practices like annual burning and widespread grazing

The Flint Hills contain the largest remaining tracts of tallgrass prairie, a habitat that once covered much of the Great Plains but of which only 4 percent is now left, mostly in the Flint Hills. Far from being pristine prairie, however, the Flint Hills region supports a major cattle industry and is intensively managed.

"Because of its size, the Flint Hills is assumed to be a population stronghold for grassland birds," said Kimberly With, a K-State associate professor of biology who led the study. "Mostly this has been based on bird counts, but they can be misleading because they don't show what the region is capable of producing. Birds are very mobile and thus birds could come from elsewhere to give the appearance of a stable population year after year. This is especially true if the region attracts birds because of its size, but birds do not breed successfully once they settle here."

With was joined by ecologists Anthony King from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and William Jensen, a former postdoctoral researcher in With's lab at K-State. They conducted a two-year study of regional viability of three grassland birds: the dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow and eastern meadowlark. With and her colleagues found that none of these bird species is viable in the 4 million-acre Flint Hills region. They estimated population declines of as much as 29 percent per year during the years studied.

The results were published in December 2008 in the journal Biological Conservation.

"Although considered to be relatively common, all three of these species have been exhibiting declines at a continent-wide level," With said.

According to a 2007 report by The National Audubon Society, two of these species -- the grasshopper sparrow and eastern meadowlark -- have lost 62 percent and 75 percent, respectively, of their global population in the past 40 years.

With and her colleagues found that birds are not breeding successfully in the Flint Hills. With said that more than 80 percent of nests were destroyed by predators. They also found that birds nesting in native prairie hayfields were more successful than birds nesting in grazed grassland. She said this might be because in the Flint Hills, the hayfields were mown later than in other prairie regions, enabling birds to finish nesting before the nests are mowed under.

"These hayfields are a less disturbed habitat than other managed grasslands in the Flint Hills, 90 percent of which is grazed and up to two-thirds may be burned," With said.

The researchers suggest that land-management practices may offer only part of the explanation for declining bird populations.

"There was a drought one of the two years we studied the birds, and in that year birds didn't do well anywhere," With said. "Under global climate change, we may see more prolonged droughts and less frequent, but more intense storms. If rain comes as intense storms with hail, that could be just as lethal to the birds."

With said that more study is needed before recommendations can be made to help manage these bird populations. But she said that the results are still valuable because -- like a canary in a coal mine -- birds indicate a region's overall environmental health.

"The cattle industry is important economically to the region," With said. "The region is also ecologically important. The challenge is to what extent you can successfully achieve these joint aims of agriculture and conservation within the Flint Hills."

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service's National Research Initiative Managed Ecosystems Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Kansas State University. "Birds In Flint Hills Of Kansas, Oklahoma Face Population Decline Despite Large Habitat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303112439.htm>.
Kansas State University. (2009, March 3). Birds In Flint Hills Of Kansas, Oklahoma Face Population Decline Despite Large Habitat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303112439.htm
Kansas State University. "Birds In Flint Hills Of Kansas, Oklahoma Face Population Decline Despite Large Habitat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303112439.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Shoppers at an Oregon drug store were surprised by a bear cub scurrying down the aisles this past weekend. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) The Johnson family lost their battle with the Chesterfield County, Virginia Planning Commission to allow Tucker, their pet pig, to stay in their home, but refuse to let the board keep Tucker away. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins