Tallgrass prairie management and bird nest success along roadsides

Eyal Shochat, Don H. Wolfe, Michael A. Patten, Dan L. Reinking, Steve K. Sherrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The attributes of roadside vegetation, an important bird habitat in grassland ecosystems, have been shown to affect bird abundance, distribution composition, and diversity, yet there are relatively few works on reproductive success of birds nesting along roadsides. Because roadsides are linear habitats, management at the landscape scale can affect nest success in roadsides through bottom-up and top-down effects. In northeastern Oklahoma tallgrass prairie is subjected annually to prescribed spring fires. In the short term fires can alter both arthropod abundance and predator access to nests. We explored effects of burning on bird nest success with a five-year study along roads that traversed tallgrass prairie habitat. Using data from ∼1400 nests of 23 species, we generated nest survival curves for groups of altricial species defined by nest substrate (ground, shrub, tree, or culvert). We then determined if these curves were affected by management practice (spring burning), food abundance (arthropod biomass), and habitat attributes (tree density and height). Nest substrate had a large effect on nest success: despite their shorter nest exposure period, ground nests were least successful and culvert nests were most successful. An increase in arthropod biomass following burning was possibly the cause for the increased nest success in burned plots, regardless of substrate, suggesting bottom-up control. Tree height and nest height were correlated positively with nest success, whereas tree density had no effect. Conversely, nest predation rates were correlated negatively with nest success, with ground nests experiencing the highest predation, culvert nests the lowest. Our results suggest that burning may increase nest success through bottom-up processes, but some species may not benefit from the increase in food abundance as a result of a concomitant increase in predation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-407
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Livestock grazing
  • Nest placement
  • Oklahoma
  • Prescribed fire
  • Survival analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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