State Wildlife Grant - T-31-R

Project Title

Grassland Bird Response to Decreases in Grazing Pressure

Target Species

Grassland nesting birds

Timeline

April 2011 -- March 2014

Investigators

Dr. Marissa Ahlering, The Nature Conservancy

Description

Relatively little is known about the response of grassland birds to grazing pressure, particularly for the northern tallgrass prairie, but some of the work that has been done on northern prairies suggests a negative impact of cattle grazing on nest success of grassland birds. The need to understand grassland bird response to grazing is particularly important as grassland bird populations continue to decline and grassland habitat is lost, creating even greater grazing pressure on what little grassland remains. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in southeast North Dakota is uniquely positioned to begin to address this issue. The Sheyenne River Delta has a long history of grazing in the northern tallgrass prairie, but the impact of this grazing pressure on grassland birds has been relatively unexplored. TNC’s Brown Ranch shares this history of grazing, but over the next three years TNC plans to reduce grazing pressure on their lands to provide habitat heterogeneity in the overall landscape. This provides a unique opportunity to examine the grassland bird community response to a decrease in grazing pressure that could be challenging to implement on agency or private lands.