Effects of Seasonal Burns on Avian Foraging in a Central Texas Ashe Juniper-Live Oak Savanna




Brown, Macy

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North American grassland birds have been declining for the past three decades. Loss of habitat from urbanization, agricultural land use, and encroachment of woody species may account for this decline. Prescribed burning is one method for restoring remnants of grassland habitat, typically performed in wet, cool periods when fire behavior is more benign. Fires historically helped to maintain grasslands by suppressing woody plants and encouraging herbaceous growth; however, the majority of these natural fires occurred in the summer growing season. To determine if this shift in burn season affects avian forage availability, I examined avian species foraging on summer, fall and winter burns plus unburned control plots over a year. I found no difference in forage use by avian species on seasonal burn treatments; however, there was a significant difference in use on pooled burn data versus the unburned control. I did not find many defined trends from Detrended Correspondence Analysis; however foliage insectivores and ground insectivores had an even distribution in fall and winter months. The majority of grassland birds were omnivores and their distribution was uneven over the year. Managing grasslands with prescribed burns during dormant periods did not negatively affect foraging by grassland birds. Future studies should investigate how changes in vegetation based on different seasonal burns influence avian foraging.



birds, prescribed burning, ecology, savannas, environment


Brown, M. (2009). Effects of seasonal burns on avian foraging in a central Texas ashe juniper-live oak savanna (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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