The Citizen Scientist

Private Farmland Habitat Buffers for Birds

Reggie Thackston, Game Management Section (Reggie_Thackston@dnr.state.ga.us)

Grassland and early successional bird species in the eastern United States are declining faster than any other group of North American breeding birds.  A combination of factors can explain these declines, from a decrease in natural disturbance regimes such as fire, to farm abandonment and increased efficiency among remaining farms. Due to these and other regional trends, early successional habitat is not created or sustained adequately to support healthy bird populations.  Despite the obvious conservation concern for these species, less severe declines in forest nesting neotropical migrants have received more attention from the conservation community.  Fortunately attention is beginning to focus on this critical conservation issue.

A recently initiated practice in the Conservation Reserve Program Continuous Signup entitled CP33 - Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, is attempting to address the decline in early successional habitat at a regional scale by providing incentives to farmers for leaving 30-120 wide habitat buffers around existing cropland.  Studies have found positive responses to similar management strategies (created through Georgias Bobwhite Quail Initiative), including an increase in Bobwhite Quail, and a 30% increase in wintering sparrows along field borders.  In order to monitor the breeding bird response to this program, WRD is looking for help with population monitoring on CP33 sites as well as control sites without field borders.

This study will include spring point-counts for  Bobwhite Quail and select grassland bird species (Dickcissel, Indigo Bunting, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Loggerhead Shrike), and fall Quail covey counts. There will be 122 monitoring points randomly located on private farmland across the 55 Upper Coastal Plain counties. Surveys include some coarse vegetation monitoring, and are expected to take a total of 9 days each year for three years.  Travel money is available for volunteers.  If you are interested in helping with this exciting program that promises to benefit both game and nongame birds, please contact Reggie Thackston, Georgia WRD Bobwhite Quail Initiative Coordinator.  (Reggie_Thackston@dnr.state.ga.us).






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