Avian Nest Success in Growing and Dormant Season Burned Pine Forests of Georgia

Prescribed fire is a commonly used land management tool in pine (Pinus spp.) forests of the southeastern United States to control understory vegetation and enhance wildlife habitat for early successional species, but its effects on the nesting success of understory and ground-nesting songbirds are not well understood. We compared the effects of growing and dormant-season prescribed burns on the nesting success of six ground- or shrub-nesting bird species in mature pine stands at one and two years post-treatment at Fort Benning Military Reservation in Chattahoochee and Muscogee counties, Georgia, during 1995 and 1996. Apparent nest success did not differ between burn treatments during both years for eastern towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus; P = 0.37, P = 0.21), indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea; P = 1.0, P =1.0) and yellow-breasted chats (Icteria virens; P = 0.64, P = 0.69). For Bachman's sparrows (Aimophila aestivalis; P = 0.052) and northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis; P = 0.055) there were no differences in 1995, but insufficient data existed in 1996 for comparisons. However, growing season apparent nest success was higher than dormant season for prairie warblers (Dendroica discolor) 1995 (P = 0.04), but not in 1996 (P = 0.24). Our results suggest negligible differences in songbird reproductive success in response to growing-season prescribed burns.

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