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Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation
Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
shrubland birds, Setophaga discolor, early-successional habitat, shifting mosaic, nest survival, disturbance
As shrubland bird populations decline, there is a critical need to understand the effects of habitat management. I studied a population of color-banded prairie warblers (Setophaga discolor) between 2008-2011 in a shifting mosaic landscape within a Massachusetts inland, pitch pine-scrub oak barren consisting of persistent, newly created, succeeding, and disturbed habitats. I present data showing that the abundance and population structure at this site appears to be a function of colonization of newly created habitat by second-year birds, which are likely excluded from mature early-successional habitat by site-faithful older birds. Breeding season fecundity did not differ significantly between newly-created and mature habitats. Birds displaced by mowing or fire dispersed to nearby suitable habitat the following year, had relatively similar reproductive success, and did not negatively affect pairing or reproductive success in adjacent areas. My findings are novel and show that the effects of shrubland management on shrubland birds are beneficial in the short- and long-term. I also examined prairie warbler nest-site selection and nest survival in relation to plant leafing phenology and other factors. Prairie warblers selected distinct nest sites and certain attributes of these selected sites increased nest survival; thus I conclude that nest-site selection is adaptive. Plant leafing phenology influenced nest-site selection and nest survival in this system; its effects on birds should be considered as a potential mechanism by which bird communities can be affected by global climate change.
David I. King