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Northern bobwhite breeding season ecology on a reclaimed surface mine

March 1, 2017

Surface coal mining and subsequent reclamation of surface mines have converted large forest areas into early successional vegetative communities in the eastern United States. This reclamation can provide a novel opportunity to conserve northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). We evaluated the influence of habitat management activities on nest survival, nest-site selection, and brood resource selection on managed and unmanaged units of a reclaimed surface mine, Peabody Wildlife Management Area (Peabody), in west-central Kentucky, USA, from 2010 to 2013. We compared resource selection, using discrete-choice analysis, and nest survival, using the nest survival model in Program MARK, between managed and unmanaged units of Peabody at 2 spatial scales: the composition and configuration of vegetation types (i.e., macrohabitat) and vegetation characteristics at nest sites and brood locations (i.e., microhabitat). On managed sites, we also investigated resource selection relative to a number of different treatments (e.g., herbicide, disking, prescribed fire). We found no evidence that nest-site selection was influenced by macrohabitat variables, but bobwhite selected nest sites in areas with greater litter depth than was available at random sites. On managed units, bobwhite were more likely to nest where herbicide was applied to reduce sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) compared with areas untreated with herbicide. Daily nest survival was not influenced by habitat characteristics or by habitat management but was influenced by nest age and the interaction of nest initiation date and nest age. Daily nest survival was greater for older nests occurring early in the breeding season (0.99, SE < 0.01) but was lower for older nests occurring later in the season (0.08, SE = 0.13). Brood resource selection was not influenced by macrohabitat or microhabitat variables we measured, but broods on managed units selected areas treated with herbicide to control sericea lespedeza and were located closer to firebreaks and disked native-warm season grass stands than would be expected at random. Our results suggest the vegetation at Peabody was sufficient without manipulation to support nesting and brood-rearing northern bobwhite at a low level, but habitat management practices improved vegetation for nesting and brood-rearing resource selection. Reproductive rates (e.g., nest survival and re-nesting rates) at Peabody were lower than reported in other studies, which may be related to nutritional deficiencies caused by the abundance of sericea lespedeza. On reclaimed mine lands dominated by sericea lespedeza, we suggest continuing practices such as disking and herbicide application that are targeted at reducing sericea lespedeza to improve the vegetation for nesting and brood-rearing bobwhite.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Northern bobwhite breeding season ecology on a reclaimed surface mine
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21182
Authors Jarred M. Brooke, Evan P. Tanner, David C. Peters, Ashley M. Tanner, Craig A. Harper, Patrick D. Keyser, Joseph D. Clark, John J. Morgan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Series Number
Index ID 70184974
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

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