Bird Communities on Conservation Buffers and Mowed Field Edges

Wildlife Outstanding Technical Paper

We conducted a 13-year study to determine bird species richness and abundance in field edges maintained in conservation buffers and mowed field edges on two agricultural experiment stations in Mississippi. Both experiment stations were intensively managed for agricultural row crop and dairy production with field edges managed with frequent mowing and herbicide application. Habitat reclamation and management on 41 ha of field edges was initiated on each farm in 1988 and included selective spraying herbicides to control agronomic grasses, cessation of annual mowing, protection from livestock access, and planting legumes and shrubs. We surveyed birds from 1 May through 15 June on permanently established, fixed-width transects in three conservation buffer and three mowed field edges adjacent to row crops on each experimental farm from 1989 through 2001. We detected 25 bird species on mowed field edges and 51 species on edges maintained in conservation buffers on both farms. Mean species richness and bird abundance were higher (P < 0.05) on conservation buffers than on mowed field edges on both farms. We attributed higher bird species richness and abundance in conservation buffers to a more diverse habitat structure and increased food plant availability created by native plant succession and shrub plantings. These results support the concept that creation and maintenance of conservation buffers in field edges along row crops can increase bird species richness and abundance on agricultural lands.

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