Results from the First Year of Nest Monitoring
By MRBO Nest Monitoring Crew Leader Katie Leonard
Missouri River Bird Observatory’s pilot season of nest-searching at Taberville Prairie has come to an end! This was the first year of the project, which is in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation to examine the effects of patch-burn grazing on flora and fauna. Our knowledge of nest-searching practices grew over the season. These improved methods will contribute to collecting data that will aid in our research on the effects of different management practices on grassland bird species over time.
We had two primary nest-searching areas; these differed in the aspect of being grazed by cattle versus ungrazed. There were two other management practices in each unit. The grazed unit was separated into two areas, one which received prescribed fire in late spring and one that was unburned. Similarly, the ungrazed unit included a burned and an unburned area. The data that we collect over the years of this project in each sub-unit will provide insight into how these different managements impact the nest survival of grassland-nesting birds. Combined, the nests in all management areas had a daily success rate of 92.76%. However, the nest success was considerably lower by the end of the full nest cycle. The nest survival was 20.63% of all nests throughout the season. Although this seems low, it is not uncommon for grassland nesting birds. They are exposed to very high rates of depredation, mostly by snakes.
In total, we found 203 nests throughout the Taberville study area. There were 111 nests in the grazed area and 92 nests in the ungrazed unit. We found the highest number of Dickcissel nests, reaching 108. Dickcissel also had the highest daily and nest cycle survival rates of all the species, with a daily survival rate of 93.11% and an overall nest success rate of 22.33%. We also found 17 Bell’s Vireo nests, 22 Field Sparrow nests, eight Eastern Meadowlark nests, three Henslow’s Sparrow nests, and one Grasshopper Sparrow nest. Other nests we found included Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Mourning Dove, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, and Eastern Kingbird.
We learned a great deal during MRBO’s first nest-searching season, and we’re excited to see how the project continues to develop over time!