Microhabitat Characteristics as Predictors of Occupancy by Bachman's Sparrow in a Fire-managed Pine Forest of Louisiana

Longleaf pine forests have declined precipitously throughout the southeastern United States, partially because of reductions in prescribed burning. Populations of species associated with longleaf forests, such as Bachman's sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis), also have declined at alarming rates. Efforts to restore longleaf systems are ongoing throughout the region, and involve varying fire-return intervals. We assessed whether Bachman's sparrow detection probabilities and site occupancy were associated with differences in microhabitat caused by variations in fire regimes. The fire regimes we assessed were conducted within stands that averaged 3.5 ha. Our occupancy models suggested that the most suitable habitat for Bachman's sparrows in longleaf pine stands included a monoculture of longleaf pine overstory with limited intrusion of hardwood species and greater herbaceous layers for nesting cover. Our findings suggest that ensuring presence of Bachman's sparrows in restored longleaf pine forests will require biannual prescribed fire during the growing season (April-June).

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