The Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan: Associated Birds in California

The Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan: Associated Birds in California
The Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan:
A Strategy for Protecting and Managing Grasslands and
Associated Birds in California
Version 1.0
October 2000
A Project of California Partners in Flight and
Point Reyes Bird Observatory
Conservation Plan Author:
Supporting Author:
Bob Allen, CA DFG
Phone: (209) 827-0958
E-mail: [email protected]
Melissa Pitkin, PRBO
4990 Shoreline Highway
Stinson Beach, CA 94970
Species Account Authors:
Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) — Kevin Hunting, California Department of Fish
and Game
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) — Victor Lyon, United States Fish
and Wildlife Service
Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) — Kevin Hunting, California Department of
Fish and Game
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) — Kristi Cripe, California Department of Fish and
Game
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) — Jeffrey Moore, Humboldt State University
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) — Bob Allen, California Department of
Fish and Game
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) — Linda Moore, Humboldt State
University
Illustrations:
Zac Denning
Nik Tatarnic
Editing and Design:
Sandy Scoggin
Financial Contributors:
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Acknowledgements:
California Partners in Flight would like to thank everyone who helped write, edit, and
publish this document. Special thanks to reviewers Dan L. Reinking and Aaron Holmes.
This plan is also currently in review by Luke George. October 4, 2000.
Recommended Citation:
CPIF (California Partners in Flight). 2000. Version 1.0. The draft grassland bird
conservation plan: a strategy for protecting and managing grassland habitats and
associated birds in California (B. Allen, lead author). Point Reyes Bird
Observatory, Stinson Beach, CA. http://www.prbo.org/CPIF/Consplan.html
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
2
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ...................................................................................... 4
Biological Need......................................................................................................... 4
Mission and Objective............................................................................................... 5
Findings and Recommendations ............................................................................... 6
Chapter 1. Introduction................................................................................ 8
Partners in Flight ....................................................................................................... 8
Conservation in California’s Other Habitats............................................................. 8
Objective of Grassland Bird Conservation Plan ....................................................... 8
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California ......................................................... 10
Grassland Types ...................................................................................................... 10
California Grassland Coverage ............................................................................... 10
Figure 1-1. Distribution of grassland in California. ................................................ 12
Grassland Habitat .................................................................................................... 13
Chapter 3. Conservation Planning Process ............................................. 15
Criteria for selecting grassland focal species .......................................................... 15
Primary Focal Species............................................................................................. 15
Chapter 4. Problems Affecting Grassland Birds ..................................... 17
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations ............................... 19
Monitoring/Research............................................................................................... 19
Habitat Restoration / Management.......................................................................... 22
Habitat Protection.................................................................................................... 23
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education ......................................................... 25
Project-Based Learning ........................................................................................... 25
Classroom Education............................................................................................... 26
Volunteer Involvement............................................................................................ 27
Interpretation at Natural Areas ................................................................................ 28
Participation in Birding Festivals and Environmental Fairs ................................... 28
Grassland Outreach ................................................................................................. 29
Future Outreach Priorities ....................................................................................... 29
Opportunities for Involvement: What Can One Person Do?................................... 30
Appendix A. Resources.............................................................................. 39
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations...................................... 46
Research and Monitoring ........................................................................................ 46
Standardized Methods ............................................................................................. 48
Area Search ............................................................................................... 48
Point Count................................................................................................ 48
Mist Netting............................................................................................... 48
Territory Mapping ..................................................................................... 49
Nest Monitoring ........................................................................................ 49
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
3
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
Executive Summary
This Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan is a collaborative effort of California
Partners in Flight. It has been developed to guide conservation policy and action on
behalf of grassland habitats and birds. The geographic scope of this plan is the
distribution of annual and native perennial grasslands in the state, which are found
predominantly along the coast and in California’s Great Central Valley. The plan has
focused on data concerning seven focal grassland bird species that are dependent on these
habitat types. A primary finding of this plan, and therefore its most important
recommendation, is the paucity of data concerning grassland bird species and the need to
collect basic information concerning species distribution, productivity and survival before
extensive conservation recommendations can be made.
This conservation plan, along with the associated Geographic Information System (GIS)
database of bird monitoring data obtained in grassland habitats (maintained at the Point
Reyes Bird Observatory, PRBO), is the first iteration of a continuous process of updating
habitat conservation recommendations based on the latest scientific monitoring and
research data. This is not a regulatory document, nor does it represent the policies of any
agency or organization. The GIS database, in particular, is used for cataloguing new
information and new analyses and for updating conservation recommendations and goals.
Analyses of bird data will be posted on the PRBO website (www.prbo.org), periodically
updated, and made available for use by the public. Therefore, this conservation plan is a
dynamic, “living” document.
Biological Need
Conflicting estimates of the current extent of grassland coverage in the state of California
make it difficult to judge the amount of habitat loss since European settlement. However,
it is estimated that historically 8 million hectares of grassland carpeted the state, most of
it concentrated in the Central Valley. Current estimates put the amount of grassland
remaining today at about 36%. This includes native perennial grasslands, annual
grasslands (most of which are dominated by introduced species) and pasture.
For the purposes of this conservation plan, grasslands are defined as all habitats
dominated by grasses and/or by forbs. This enables the plan to cover habitats ranging
from sparsely vegetated alkali flats to annual and perennial grasslands to tall, dense
forblands and row crops. Also included are grasslands where shrubs make up less than
50% of the total canopy cover (Vickery et al 1999a).
Grassland conversion occurred early in the history of the state: by 1880, 75% of the Great
Central Valley had already been altered to improved farmland (Hewes and Gannett 1883
as cited in Huenneke 1989). Smaller but still significant areas of grassland existed in
northeastern California and in several coastal counties (Heady 1977). Much of what is
grassland today was not grassland historically (Hamilton 1997). Shrub and oak
woodlands of the foothills regions (Huenneke 1989) were cleared and modified over time
as competitive agricultural interests pushed ranchers off the valley floor. These areas
became dominated by open grasslands (Preston 1981), which today constitute the major
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
4
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
portion of grassland acreage. Moreover, these grasslands are dominated by invasive
annual species introduced, inadvertently and deliberately, from the Mediterranean region.
Current problems afflicting California’s grasslands include the widespread replacement
of native perennial and annual grasses and forbs with exotics. This process probably
includes a combination of competitive advantages by exotic species, overgrazing,
droughts, and other unknown factors that have quickly led (within 100 years) to almost a
complete overhaul of native plants with introduced varieties (Heady 1979, Fredrickson
and Laubhan 1995).
Loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation, a theme of California’s Bird Conservation
Plans overall, may be especially acute in grasslands. What was once the largest swath of
grassland is now some of the most productive farmland in the world, and remaining
grasslands in the valley floor tends to be in areas of poor productivity. Coastal prairies
have also been converted to farms and, especially in the Bay area, rapidly urbanized.
With loss of habitat, the patch size of remaining grasslands has decreased and continues
to do so. Grasslands around the Great Central Valley are becoming increasingly
fragmented by urbanization and, in some areas, encroaching woody vegetation
(Fredrickson and Laubhan 1995). This has unknown but potentially highly significant
ramifications for native grassland bird species. Research from other regions with
grasslands in North America has demonstrated that grassland bird species (including ones
that breed in California) can be sensitive to grassland patch size: i.e. some grassland bird
species are only found in grassland patches that are 100 times the size of an average
territory of a given species (Herkert 1994, Vickery et al. 1994, Bock et al. 1999).
Finally, with over 86% of grasslands in private hands, grasslands today continue to be
managed as such, largely due to the economic viability of grazing resulting in part from
agricultural subsidies (Davis et al. 1998). Although this ownership pattern presents an
opportunity for CPIF to forge innovative research and management partnerships with a
diverse array of private landowners, the drawback is that very little permanent protection
exists and economic changes can cause loss of habitat.
Mission and Objective
The mission of Partners in Flight (PIF) is to stop the decline of, maintain or increase
populations of landbirds in North America. This mission translates into identification of
habitat conservation and management priorities for bird species at risk in California. By
developing the Grassland Bird Conservation Plan, California PIF seeks to promote
conservation and restoration of grassland habitats to support long-term viability and
recovery of both native bird populations and other native wildlife species. The objective
in developing a Grassland Bird Conservation Plan is to synthesize and summarize, in one
place, current “state of the science” knowledge concerning the requirements of birds in
grassland habitats, and provide recommendations for habitat protection, restoration,
management, and monitoring to ensure long-term persistence of birds and other wildlife
dependent on grassland ecosystems.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
5
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
California PIF recognizes that the subject of land management and land use, whether on
private or public lands, can be contentious. In the case of California’s grasslands,
partnerships to foster the development of a greater pool of knowledge from which to
devise and implement land management recommendations is needed.
Findings and Recommendations
This Conservation Plan has been developed collaboratively by the leading bird
researchers in California through a process designed to
! capture the conservation needs of the complete range of native and introduced
annual grassland habitat types throughout the state, and
! develop biological conservation objectives based on the current state of
knowledge of grassland birds.
Current monitoring data for grassland bird species is relatively unavailable compared
with other habitat types. More work is needed to establish new monitoring areas. This
document places an emphasis on a suite of seven bird species chosen because of their
conservation interest and to serve as focal species representative of the full range of
grassland habitats in the state. Preliminary analysis of the seven focal species’ habitat
requirements yield the following:
•
In California’s grassland habitats, there is a critical lack of information on which
to base land management and species conservation recommendations. For
example, most habitat models are based on research that was done outside of
California, but territory and nest characteristics may vary dramatically between
regions as dissimilar as California and Wisconsin.
•
Because we lack information on the distribution of grassland birds, and the habitat
characteristics to which they respond, and because few grassland bird species are
in immediate danger, investment in research and monitoring is not only feasible,
but absolutely essential to future grassland conservation efforts in the state of
California.
•
The most important data gathering efforts that should be instituted include a statewide point count to determine distribution and habitat associations; development
of feasible methods for estimating productivity and survivorship in grassland
birds (traditional mist-netting methods are useless in open grassland areas); and
studies to determine the sensitivity of California’s grassland birds to patch size.
•
A series of hands-on management projects that are monitored as experiments
should focus on the issue of how grassland birds respond to various grazing,
burning, mowing, and disking regimes. An emphasis should be placed on
working with ranchers to develop methods for (a) improving bird species
richness, productivity, and survivorship, (b) decreasing the presence of aggressive
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
6
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
exotics (e.g. Yellow Star Thistle and Medusahead), and (c) improving forage
quality for livestock while increasing the presence of native vegetation.
•
Determine whether native grass restorations restore native grassland birds.
Although this assumption may often be made, no bird data for grasslands exists
before the great invasion of exotic annuals that occurred in the 1800’s.
Accordingly, it is important to determine the value of restored native grasslands
for remaining grassland species, especially as many refuges and parks move
toward managing for native perennial grasses, often at great expense.
•
Finally, with respect to current management, disturbance to grasslands should be
avoided to the maximum extent possible during breeding season.
•
Protected status for the remaining large, quality grassland areas is important, and
stands of native vegetation should be targeted for protection first.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
7
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 1. Introduction
Partners in Flight
California Partners in Flight (CPIF) was formed in 1992 with the participation of the
state’s land and wildlife managers, scientists and researchers, and private organizations
interested in the conservation of non-game landbirds. Noting that the major cause of
population declines in California appeared to be habitat degradation, CPIF began
identifying critical habitats important to birds and worked cooperatively to protect and
enhance remaining habitat fragments.
The Riparian Bird Conservation Plan
The first habitat to be addressed was California’s dwindling riparian habitats. Eighteen
federal, state, and private organizations formed the Riparian Habitat Joint Venture
(RHJV) in 1993 which focused on (1) collecting data and analyzing existing information
to promote a broad understanding among land managers; (2) doubling riparian habitat in
California by funding and promoting on-the-ground conservation projects; and (3)
providing guidance for land managers, funders, agencies, and conservation organizations
to assist in selecting and implementing the highest priority conservation/land
management projects. To fulfill the RHJV's first goal, CPIF and RHJV produced the
Riparian Bird Conservation Plan. The Riparian Bird Conservation Plan was created by
(1) identifying 14 focal riparian bird species; (2) writing detailed species accounts for
each bird species; (3) identifying elements of similarity and differences in the habitat
needs and concerns for each species; and (4) summarizing this information into a
straightforward report that provides recommendations to managers and other interested
parties for habitat protection, restoration, management, monitoring, and policy.
Conservation in California’s Other Habitats
After the creation of the Riparian Bird Conservation Plan, CPIF decided to enlarge its
scope and examine other habitats of interest: Coastal Scrub/Chaparral, Sierra Nevada,
Oak Woodlands, Coniferous Forests, and Grasslands. This Grassland Bird Conservation
Plan seeks to mimic the focus of the Riparian Bird Conservation Plan; namely, coalescing
available grassland bird information into a straightforward “state of the science” report
that summarizes available information and provides recommendations to managers and
other interested parties for habitat protection, restoration, management, monitoring, and
policy.
Objective of Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
The objective in developing a Grassland Bird Conservation Plan is to synthesize and
summarize, in one place, current “state of the science” knowledge concerning the
requirements of birds in grassland habitats, and provide recommendations for habitat
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
8
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 1. Introduction
protection, restoration, management, and monitoring to ensure long-term persistence of
birds and other wildlife dependent on grassland ecosystems.
California Partners in Flight Partners:
California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG)
California Department of Water Resources (DWR)
California State Lands Commission (SLC)
Ducks Unlimited
Kern River Research Center (now defunct)
National Audubon Society (NAS)
National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
National Park Service
Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO)
Sacramento River Partners
Southern Sierra Research Station (SSRS)
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB)
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
9
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
Grassland Types
There are two major grassland habitat types in California: annual and perennial. Kie
(1988) recognized coastal perennial grasslands in the coastal prairie form (Monterey
northward along the California coast below 100 meters and usually within 100 kilometers
of the coast) and as relic perennial grasslands. Coastal prairie is found in northern areas
of California under maritime influence, while the relic perennial forms occur scattered
throughout the annual grasslands - these are generally small enough not to be considered
a separate type. The majority of the state’s grasslands are annual. Vickery et al. (1999a)
recognized the California annual grassland as one of the eight major grassland types in
North America. All of the California annual grassland falls within the state boundaries
and it is the grassland towards which this plan is targeted. There is no good evidence that
perennial grasses ever dominated California grasslands except in the North Coast Ranges
(Blumer 1993).
Shrubsteppe vegetation communities also occur in California, although this habitat is
outside the scope of this plan. Shrubsteppe in California is limited to the northeastern
portion of the state. For more information on shrubsteppe habitat see the Conservation
Strategy for Landbirds in the Columbia Plateau of Eastern Oregon and Washington
(Altman and Holmes 2000), prepared for Oregon-Washington Partners in Flight,
available at http://www.gorge.net/natres/pif/conservation.html.
California Grassland Coverage
Grasslands are thought to have historically covered about 8 million hectares in California
(Burcham 1957). Grasslands were estimated to cover only half that amount in the 1950's
(Biswell 1956). However in the late 1970's, California’s Department of Forestry used
LANDSAT data to map California’s habitats and estimated 7 million hectares of
grassland, excluding the oak woodland-grassland mosaic that covers much of the foothills
bordering the Great Central Valley (California Department of Forestry 1979 as cited in
Huenneke 1989). GAP analysis completed in 1998 shows only 2.88 million hectares of
grassland in California (Davis et al. 1998). It is unclear whether these very different
estimates reveal true changes in grassland coverage, different definitions of grassland,
changes in the accuracy of mapping methods, or a combination of these causes.
Distribution in California, according to GAP analysis, of three types of grasslands
(annual, perennial, and pasture) can be seen in Figure 1-1. The map only denotes areas
where grassland is the dominant feature (>50%) of a given polygon.
Assuming Burcham’s historical estimate to be correct, roughly 36% of California’s
grasslands remain today. The largest swath of grassland in California was the Great
Central Valley, where grasslands covered most of the land surface of the valley and were
broken only by scattered wetland and riparian areas (Heady 1977; but see Hamilton
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
10
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
1997). However, by 1880 75% of the Great Central Valley had already been converted to
improved farmland (Hewes and Gannett 1883 as cited in Huenneke 1989). Smaller but
still significant areas of grassland existed in northeastern California and in several coastal
counties (Heady 1977).
Much of what is classified as grassland today was not grassland historically (Hamilton
1997). For instance, much of the foothills that surround the Great Central Valley as well
as portions of the South Coast ranges were dominated by shrub and oak woodlands
(Huenneke 1989). Over time, ranchers that were pushed off the valley floors by more
competitive agricultural interests cleared and modified the foothills and so the area
became dominated by open grasslands (Preston 1981). This non-historical grassland
constitutes the major portion of the present grassland acreage.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
11
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
Figure 1-1. Distribution of grassland in California.
Colored areas are those where grasslands are the dominant habitat in a ≥100-ha polygon.
Green denotes annual grassland, red is perennial grassland, and blue is pasture.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
12
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
Grassland Habitat
For purposes of this conservation plan, grasslands will be defined as all habitats
dominated by grasses and/or by forbs. This will enable the plan to cover habitats ranging
from sparsely vegetated alkali flats, to annual and perennial grasslands, to tall, dense
forblands and row crops. We also include grasslands where shrubs make up less than
50% of the total canopy cover (Vickery et al 1999a). CPIF has recently adopted the
Sawyer and Keeler-Wolf system for classifying assemblages of vegetation. Grass or
sedge (Carex) dominated herbaceous vegetation assemblages are classified into 31
categories based on the dominant plant species. However, most records of grassland bird
distribution do not classify grassland vegetation at such a specific level; for this reason, it
was felt that the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships system (CWHR) provides
more suitably general grassland types to which we can link bird distribution.
Furthermore, by using the CWHR system, we can also identify the distribution, acreage,
ownership, and protection status of such grasslands by using the recently completed GAP
analysis for California.
The CWHR system of classification provides general descriptions of wildlife habitats in
California. Below are brief descriptions on the major grassland habitats in California.
For complete accounts see Mayer and Laudenslayer (1988).
Annual Grasses
Annual grasslands occur throughout California and today are dominated by exotic annual
grasses. Species present and structure can change dramatically with alterations in
precipitation and management activities such as grazing.
Perennial Grasses
Perennial grasses occur in small remnants in the Central Valley and along the coast.
Dominant vegetation can include (depending on geographic location, soils, etc.) Purple
Needlegrass, Creeping Wild Rye, Alkali Sacaton, and Saltgrass.
Pasture
Pastures are generally found in agricultural areas. Most pastures are grazed. Plant
species present varies tremendously depending on geographic location, soil, the pasture
mixes utilized, and so on, but tend to be dominated by perennial grasses and annual forbs.
Many pastures are irrigated.
Wet Meadow
Wet meadows occur from northwest California to the southern Sierra Nevada. These
meadows are generally defined by poorly drained soils and often contain sedge, rush and
bent grass species (Carex, Juncus, and Agrostis). Wet meadows often occur as ecotones
between Perennial grasslands and adjacent wetlands.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
13
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 2. Grasslands in California
Irrigated Row Crops, Dry-farmed Row Crops, and Grain Crops
Cropland can be composed of annual crops such as Cotton and Corn or perennial crops
such as Asparagus and Alfalfa. Over 80% of California’s 6.2 million acres of cropland is
irrigated (Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1999).
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
14
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 3. Conservation Planning Process
Chapter 3. Conservation Planning Process
Criteria for selecting grassland focal species
We chose seven focal species in order to capture the
variation present in grasslands across California. Each
required a different type of grassland (e.g. vegetation
structure or patch size) and, therefore, we hope they
will represent the range of habitat needs demonstrated
by most or all birds that use California’s grasslands. In
addition, four of the seven species are species of
concern at the state and/or federal level. Species and
authors of accounts follow.
Primary Focal Species
•
Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) — Kevin Hunting, California Department of
Fish and Game
•
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) — Victor Lyon, United
States Fish and Wildlife Service
•
Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) — Kevin Hunting, California
Department of Fish and Game
•
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) — Kristi Cripe, California Department of
Fish and Game
•
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) — Jeffrey Moore, Humboldt State
University
•
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) — Bob Allen, California
Department of Fish and Game
•
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) — Linda Moore, Humboldt
State University
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
15
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 3. Conservation Planning Process
Table 1-1 shows information on status and habitat needs for these seven species. A
Burrowing Owl account is in the process of being added. Secondary species for which
we did not write species accounts, but nest and/or primarily forage (summer or winter) in
grasslands include: Tricolored Blackbird, Horned Lark, wintering Sandhill Cranes,
Swainson’s Hawk, Song Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall,
and Ring-necked Pheasant.
Table 1-1. Focal species status and habitat needs.
Species
Life History
State Status
Federal Status
Habitat Needs
Ferruginous
Winters in California.
CSC
MNBMC
Large patch size of grassland,
FSC
has adapted to some forms of
Hawk
agriculture
None
MNBMC
Less than 30% total shrub
Grasshopper
Summer resident, may
Sparrow
be year-round resident in
cover, large patch size,
some areas.
bunchgrasses
Mountain
Winters in California.
CSC
Plover
FPT
Sparsely vegetated or heavily
MNBMC
grazed grasslands, disked
agricultural lands, or nearly
barren areas.
Northern
Year-round resident,
CSC
MNBMC
Forb- or grass- dominated areas,
Harrier
numbers augmented by
may need nearby wetlands, will
northern birds in winter.
forage in certain types of
agriculture
Western
Year-round resident,
Meadowlark
numbers augmented by
No
None
Grassland generalist
None
Dense vegetation in open
northern birds in winter.
Savannah
Dependent on
Subspecies
Sparrow
subspecies, most remain
beldingi:
country: meadows, pastures,
in California year-round,
SE
fields, etc.
numbers augmented by
northern birds in winter.
White-tailed
Year-round resident,
FP
None
Kite
may be nomadic in
woodland, savannah, riparian
search of prey
and some agriculture)
MNBMC: Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Non-game Bird of Management Concern
FP: California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) Fully Protected
CSC: CDFG California Species of Special Concern
SE: State listed as Endangered
FPT: Federally Proposed for listing as Threatened
FSC: Federal Special Concern Species
Uses open areas (grasslands, oak
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 4. Problems Affecting Grassland Birds
Chapter 4. Problems Affecting Grassland Birds
There are five primary problems affecting grassland birds today:
1. Replacement of native perennial and annual grasses and forbs with exotics
The replacement of the native grasslands began almost immediately after Spanish
colonists arrived in California and has only accelerated since. The earliest pueblos built
already contained seeds of exotic grasses - some of which still dominate the grassland
landscape today (Hendry 1931 as cited in Fredrickson and Laubhan 1995). It was
probably a combination of competitive advantages by exotic species, overgrazing,
droughts, and other unknown factors that quickly (within 100 years) led to almost a
complete overhaul of native plants with introduced varieties (Heady 1979, Fredrickson
and Laubhan 1995). As early as 1830, beaver trappers in the Tulare Basin (southern San
Joaquin Valley) were noting the disappearance of perennial grasses in areas surrounding
Tulare Lake (Preston 1981). Various waves of exotics have swept across California as
new grassland species were mistakenly or intentionally introduced. This process
continues today, most notably with the extremely aggressive exotic forb Yellow Star
Thistle (Centaurea solstitalis).
2. Loss of grassland habitat
Although the early colonists and livestock were responsible for the initiation of the
changes in species composition in grasslands, very little grassland was lost to other uses
except in areas immediately surrounding missions. The arrival of American farmers
changed this situation quickly. In the Great Central Valley, farmers first farmed using
dry farming techniques from the east (“sky-farming”), but gradually developed means of
tapping California’s waterways for irrigation purposes (Preston 1981). By 1880, 75% of
the Great Central Valley had already been converted to improved farmland (Hewes and
Gannett 1883 as cited in Huenneke 1989). What was once the largest swath of grassland
is now largely some of the most productive farmland in the world. Remaining grasslands
in the valley floors tend to be in areas of poor productivity: for example, extremely
alkaline or serpentine soils. A similar pattern of conversion of grazed grassland to
agriculture happened in other valleys (e.g. the Salinas Valley). Coastal prairies were also
converted to farms and, especially in the Bay area, rapidly urbanized.
3. Decreased (and decreasing) patch size of remaining grasslands
As mentioned above, remaining grasslands on the Great Central Valley floor tend to be
small patches on alkaline soils. Coastal prairies have also become greatly fragmented
(Heady 1977). The remaining grassland around the Great Central Valley is becoming
increasing fragmented by urbanization and, in some areas, encroaching woody vegetation
(Fredrickson and Laubhan 1995). Research from other regions with grasslands in North
America has demonstrated that grassland bird species (including species that breed in
California) can be sensitive to grassland patch size. Some grassland bird species are only
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 4. Problems Affecting Grassland Birds
found in grassland patches that are 100 times the size of an average territory of a given
species (Herkert 1994, Vickery et al. 1994, Bock et al. 1999). Although no research in
California has been directed towards determining what, if any, effects dwindling patch
size may have on our grassland species, reductions in patch size has likely accelerated the
decline of grassland birds.
4. Over 86% of grasslands are privately owned. This should be seen as an
opportunity for CPIF to forge partnerships with not just agencies and research
organizations, but a diverse array of private landowners.
The overwhelming majority of grasslands across the state are managed by ranchers
(Davis et al. 1998). Most grasslands in California exist today not because of thoughtful
conservation philosophy but because of the economic viability of grazing, resulting in
part from agricultural subsidies. Although many ranches have been in family or
corporate hands for many years, economic forces can cause sudden changes that can alter
land use from one with a grassy cover to orchards, vineyards, or development. The
drawback to habitat in the hands of private ownership is that no permanent protection
exists and that economic changes can cause loss of habitats.
5. Paucity of critical information
Almost no solid information exists for most of California’s grassland bird species.
Descriptions of bird distributions are often vague and based on little data. Survivorship
and productivity are completely unknown, and most habitat models are based on research
that was done outside of California. For instance, the CWHR’s life history, nest site, and
territory description for the Western Meadowlark is based on 15 studies, of which 14
were done outside of California (the study from California is pre-1930). Although life
history traits may very well be similar across the continent, there is no reason to assume
territory and nest characteristics will be similar in California’s annual grasslands as in the
tallgrass prairie of Wisconsin (where much Western Meadowlark information comes
from). This is no fault of the CWHR - information of this type simply does not exist for
California. Good conservation cannot be practiced without valuable data that must be
collected using good scientific design and analysis.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
18
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
A. Monitoring/Research
The monitoring/research section of the recommendations is presented first for several
reasons. First, we do not know how grassland birds in California are distributed and to
what habitat qualities they may be responding. Second, even when we determine what
the bird distribution is, we still have very little knowledge of how to manage grasslands
to their benefit. Grasslands are not a case where a vast amount of sound information
exists already and the critical need is to get the word out. With the exception of
Mountain Plover and Tricolored Blackbird, no grassland birds are in immediate danger.
It would be well worth our while to invest several years in research before recommending
significant actions for grassland birds as a whole that we may one day regret.
1. Initiate statewide point count project.
A 3-5 year large-scale point count project that covers all of California’s grassland
distribution should be initiated to (a) determine the actual distribution of grassland birds
and (b) determine the habitat associations of our grassland birds. We can no longer rely
on vague and qualitative descriptions of distribution and relative abundance if we are to
practice good conservation.
2. Develop methods to monitor productivity and survivorship for grassland birds.
Mist-netting is an effective method to gather data on the productivity and survivorship of
forest and riparian birds. However, mist-netting in grassland has little to no value
because of the visibility of the nets and corresponding difficulty of catching birds.
Without this tool for grassland, we have only nest monitoring (to determine productivity)
and color banding studies (to determine survivorship). Both are extremely costly and
give us information on only a very limited scale. Vickery et al (1992) developed a
protocol to monitor productivity of grassland bird pairs by assessing the visible behavior
of territorial birds. This has the potential to be an excellent technique, but may not work
for all grassland bird situations. It is imperative for us to develop effective grassland bird
monitoring tools to assess the effects of habitat types, fragmentation and edge effects, and
other management questions.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
19
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
3. Determine sensitivity of California’s grassland birds to grassland patch size.
Studies done in other grassland areas in North America have shown that some grassland
species show sensitivity to the grassland patch size (e.g. Herkert 1994, Samson 1980,
Vickery 1994, Bock et al. 1999). In Herkert’s study in Illinois, he found that
Grasshopper Sparrows were not present in grassland patches smaller than 30 hectares (74
acres) despite the fact that their published average territory size is only about 0.3 ha (0.75
acres). In other words, Grasshopper Sparrows needed a patch size some 100 times their
average territory before settling. It is unknown if California populations respond in a
similar manner, but determining this will clearly affect the outcome of the conservation
strategies we ultimately pursue.
4. Determine grassland bird response to various grazing, burning, mowing, and
disking regimes that occur in California.
Some 86% of grasslands lies in private hands. Much of this land is grazed. Grassland
bird response to grazing in the Midwest has been shown to be complex and results
between studies are often contradictory (Bock et al. 1984a, Bock et al. 1993, Bartelt
1997, Bowen and Kruse 1993, Crouch 1982). A review by Saab et al. (1995) found about
half of grassland bird species showed a positive response and half a negative response.
Much of the confusion probably stems from different definitions of light/medium/heavy
grazing, intensity of grazing, and timing of grazing all of which occur in different types
of grasslands (e.g. tallgrass, short grass, shrubsteppe) in different geographic areas (e.g.
Great Plains versus Great Basin) and are measured by different methods.
For instance, the Grasshopper Sparrow has been found to respond positively to light or
moderate grazing in tallgrass prairie (Risser et al 1981). However, it responds negatively
to grazing in shortgrass, semidesert, and mixed grass areas (Bock et al 1984b).
Presumably grasslands in California would more resemble grasslands from the latter
group (as opposed to tallgrass prairie), but Grasshopper Sparrow response to grazing in
California is at this time unknown. We must encourage careful design and analysis of
data to truly assess the range of grazing conditions.
There is a pressing need to form partnerships with local ranchers in order to do this type
of research. Although we should in no way overlook possibilities of research on public
lands, I think this is an excellent opportunity to work with ranchers to see if together we
can (a) improve bird species richness, productivity, and survivorship, (b) decrease the
presence of aggressive exotics (e.g. Yellow Star Thistle), (c) improve forage quality for
livestock, and (d) increase the presence of native vegetation. If some of the above stated
goals turn out to be in conflict with one another, financial incentives for landowners may
be required in order to meet bird conservation goals.
A similar situation exists with the effects of burning. We do not currently understand
how the frequency and intensity of fire in grasslands has affected these ecosystems and
their associated wildlife in California. Although we know that Native Americans burned
grasslands and that it is likely that the grasslands burned naturally (lightning strikes), we
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
20
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
need to better understand this relationship. Since native plants are adapted to historic fire
conditions, understanding the natural fire cycle is important to long-term management for
the grassland ecosystem as a whole and for grassland birds. As an example from a
similar habitat type, bunchgrasses in the shrubsteppe of the Great Basin are thought to
have burned on a very approximate 70-year cycle (Rotenberry 1998); recent invasion by
the exotic annual Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has increased the frequency of fire in
some areas to one fire every five years (Whisenant 1990). Such a rapid fire cycle selects
heavily against sagebrush and perennial bunchgrasses and leads to stands of pure
Cheatgrass (Rotenberry 1998). Clearly, before implementing fire as a management
strategy, we need to understand what vegetation we are targeting for and against and
whether fire can cause these changes.
Studies on the effects of burns on grassland birds in North American grasslands have
shown similar results as grazing studies: namely, bird response is highly variable.
Confounding factors include timing of burn, intensity of burn, previous land history, type
of pre-burn vegetation, presence of fire-tolerant exotic vegetation (that may take
advantage of the post-burn circumstances and spread even more quickly) and grassland
bird species present in the area. It should be emphasized that much of the variation in
response to grassland fires lies at the level of species, but that even at this level results are
often difficult to generalize. For instance, Mourning Doves have been found to
experience positive (Bock and Bock 1992, Johnson 1997) and negative (Zimmerman
1997) effects by fire in different studies. Similarly, Grasshopper Sparrow have been
found to experience positive (Johnson 1997), negative (Bock and Bock 1992,
Zimmerman 1997, Vickery et al 1999b), and no significant (Rohrbaugh 1999) effects of
fire. Species associated with short and/or open grass areas will most likely experience
short-term benefits from fires. Species that prefer taller and denser grasslands most likely
will demonstrate a negative response to fire.
Mowing, irrigation, and disking are also used to manage grasslands in some areas.
Although these management tools are probably not utilized as often as grazing and
burning, investigations are needed to determine what effects these may have on grassland
birds. We do know that mowing and disking during the breeding season cause direct nest
mortalities. From these results, recommendations have been made to state wiIdlife
officials with the Department of Fish and Game in areas of the northern San Joaquin
Valley to mow or disk only after July 1st, when the vast majority of breeding has finished.
The date when most grassland bird breeding is completed varies across California, but in
most areas birds finish breeding by the end of July.
5. Determine benefits / drawbacks of various agricultural regimes.
Birds such as the Tricolored Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, and Northern Harrier are
regularly attracted to agricultural areas for nesting and/or foraging. As work with
Tricolored Blackbirds demonstrates, this relationship can have devastating effects for
nesting birds (Hamilton et al. 1999). As agriculture becomes increasingly intensive and
more pastures are converted to orchards or vineyards, it is important to determine what
benefits/drawbacks may exist in the agricultural landscape for grassland birds. As we
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
21
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
accomplish this, it is even more important to find methods by which both farmers and
birds can survive. As with grazing, it is possible that conflicts will arise. Again, this is
an excellent opportunity to work with private agricultural landowners to determine
management regimes that will best benefit birds and landowners. Although we may not
ever discover the perfect win-win situation, we can work to make agriculture (that is
going to happen with or without biological input) more friendly to bird populations.
Determining what specific factors affect grassland birds in agricultural areas is a good
first step along this road.
6. Determine if grassland birds select for or have increased productivity /
survivorship in native grasslands vs. non-native grasslands. “Do native grass
restorations restore native grassland birds?”
No bird data for grasslands exists before the great invasion of exotic annuals occurred in
the 1800’s. Thus, we have little knowledge of what the grassland bird community may
have looked like before the transformation. We do not know if any additional grassland
species bred in pristine grasslands. However, it would be well worth our while to
determine if native grasslands have any benefits for the remaining grassland species.
Answering this question is especially important as many refuges and parks move towards
managing for native perennial grasses, often at great expense. If grassland birds do show
a positive response to native grasslands, this could add another line of evidence to justify
expensive restoration projects across the state. With answers to these questions we will
be able to better determine appropriate management regimes.
B. Habitat Restoration / Management
The birds chosen as focal species for this plan are thought to occupy a wide range of
niches within grassland habitats. As a result, management recommendations can be
quite disparate from species to species. Specific management recommendations for some
species can be found in the individual species accounts completed for this plan. These
plans are located online at www.prbo.org. This section of the plan will instead focus on
general recommendations that are thought to benefit several or most of the grassland
bird species of California.
1. Avoid mowing and disking during the breeding season.
Mowing and disking have both direct (destruction of birds and nests) and indirect
(alteration of habitat) effects on nesting birds. Impacts on nesting grassland birds will be
minimized if mowing and disking is delayed until after July. This date will be different
across the state, with earlier dates in the southern half of California and perhaps later
dates in extreme northern California.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
22
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
2. Avoid burning during the breeding season.
Although fire may have long-term positive effects for some grassland species, burning
during the breeding season certainly impacts any nesting efforts underway. Much like
mowing and disking, how great this impact is on local population dynamics will depend
greatly upon the amount of area affected, the availability of alternate suitable habitat, and
the frequency of disturbance (e.g. every year vs every third year). If, in some situations,
burning regimes can still be successful with burns that occur during the non-breeding
season, then this option should be explored by managers.
Encroachment of woody vegetation in grassland areas will be detrimental to most
grassland species. For instance, Grasshopper Sparrows have been found to be absent
from areas with greater than 30% shrub cover. In areas of good grassland bird diversity
and productivity, efforts should be made to keep woody vegetation from reducing open
grassland habitat.
C. Habitat Protection
Although we still have much to learn about managing grasslands for the benefit of
grassland birds, we do know several things that negatively affect grassland birds.
Conversion of grasslands to most forms of agriculture, orchards, and vineyards, and
increasing urbanization do not benefit grassland birds. Habitat protection is clearly
something we can pursue as we untangle many of the intricacies of grassland bird
response to various management options.
1. Identify remaining grassland areas of large patch size that have high species
abundance and productivity for grassland birds.
Habitat protection measures can only proceed once we know where the birds are and how
they are faring (see item 1 in Monitoring/Research Recommendations above).
2. Target unprotected areas that have been identified for protection as priority
areas for (a) land purchases when possible, (b) conservation easements, and (c) the
forging of partnerships with private landowners to create win-win situations.
For instance, there are several large grassland areas where Grasshopper Sparrow,
Northern Harrier, and Western Meadowlark are predicted to breed, according to GAP
analysis. Examples include the foothills east of Bakersfield and, in general, the eastern
foothills of the Great Central Valley. These are merely suggestions for beginning the
process by which we select areas to which we should direct more detailed investigations
of bird status and productivity - we do not even know how common grassland birds are in
these areas.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
23
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 5. Conservation Action Recommendations
3. Target areas with quality grassland habitat for protection status before targeting
at-risk or degraded habitat.
In many situations where a core refuge area for a given habitat already exists, the
purchase of quality habitat that lies in private hands and seems at little risk of change in
the future is bypassed in order to purchase and restore at-risk or degraded lands.
However, since so little grassland in California has permanent protection status, quality
grassland areas with high bird productivity and, where possible, remaining stands of
native vegetation should be targeted for protection measures first. Such core areas spread
around the state and surrounded by grasslands of limited extractive use (grazing in
particular) could make excellent large-scale grassland conservation areas.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
24
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
Chapter 6 Outreach and Education
Scientific efforts for conservation have little impact without the support of affected local
communities, including private landowners, government land managers, and the general
public. To gain crucial support, research and management programs must share their
findings and involve the interested parties at all levels of the conservation enterprise.
For the purposes of this report, outreach refers to communication with land managers,
agencies, planners, business interests, nonprofit organizations, academia, and volunteers.
Outreach activities include conferences and workshops that facilitate communication
among experts, participation in land use planning, volunteer restoration and monitoring
programs, field trips and classes for school children, and ecotourism.
Education, an important component of outreach, refers to the range of activities that
educate and involve students and adults. Education activities include visits for classes
and groups to field sites, interpretive displays, specialized curricula, and participation in
festivals.
Project-Based Learning
One method of educational outreach, called project-based learning, allows an open-ended
approach to solving a conservation problem. Students identify a conservation issue in
their community and plan and implement conservation projects from beginning to end.
Teachers and students make the important decisions, while working with biologists,
business people, private landowners and others in the community. Because of this
investment, students take ownership of their work, and the lessons learned are profound
and long-lasting (Rogers, pers. comm.).
Conservation education sensitizes people to environmental problems and encourages
them to seek solutions. As they become involved, people develop a greater connection to
issues such as habitat degradation and loss, songbird declines, and species extinction.
Conservationists have little hope of achieving their goals without cultivating this interest
in the public.
Education programs engage participants most effectively when they involve hands-on
activities. Conservation education has the whole of the outdoors as a classroom–what
better way to elicit the interest and enthusiasm of students and the public?
Education Opportunities
Historically, grassland habitats covered approximately 8 million acres of land in
California (Burcham 1957). Based on this estimate, only 36% of California’s grassland
habitat remain. And much of what remains is of poor quality. Reasons for the loss and
degradation of this habitat include: loss of native annual and perennial grasses and forbs,
establishment of exotic species; conversion of grasslands to agriculture and urbanization;
decreased patch size of existing grasslands to sizes that may be too small to support
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
25
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
healthy populations of birds and other wildlife, and a lack of sufficient information
regarding grassland ecosystems and their importance to wildlife.
The following is a list of key topics to emphasize in grassland education projects:
♦ Grassland habitats are dominated by grasses and forbs. Grasslands can be either
annual or perennial. Annual grasslands are dominated by annual grass species, and
perennial grasslands are dominated by perennial species. In California annual
grasslands are mostly dominated by exotic species.
♦ Annual grasses are grasses that live only one year and rely upon seed sources in the
soil for re-generation the following year.
♦ Perennial grasses are grasses that live more than two years. The grass may die to the
roots each year but re-sprouts the next year.
♦ Grassland birds are declining more rapidly than any other guild of birds.
♦ The variation in structure (heights and densities) of grasslands provides suitable
locations for nesting and for foraging, and provides a diverse mixture of insects.
♦ Bare ground patches are another key component of grassland habitats for birds. Bare
ground provides nesting sites for some species and dust bathing and foraging sites for
others.
♦ Grasslands are not composed entirely of grasses. Wildflowers and forbs support
insects that birds feed on. Shrubs add to the structure of grasslands by providing
perching sites for male birds to sing from when defending territories and attracting
mates.
♦ Grassland birds nest within the first meter or directly on the ground and thus are
subject to threats such as predation and livestock trampling. Due to their
vulnerability to predators, some species have developed unique adaptations such as
cryptic coloration, skulking behavior and placement of nests in concealed spots such
as within bunches of grass and low in shrubs.
♦ The majority of grassland habitats have been converted to agriculture and
pastureland.
♦ Emphasize the focal and secondary species listed in the grassland conservation plan.
Table 1, Chapter 3 contains status and habitat needs for the 7 focal species as well as
a list of secondary species.
The concepts and guidelines outlined above and in the Conservation Education section
can be presented to the public and to students through a variety of media. Following is a
list of common education opportunities and some suggestions for content:
Classroom Education
Programs in the classroom should focus on communicating key concepts to students
through hands-on activities. Lessons should stress studying birds in the field - whether in
the backyard, on school grounds, or in a nearby natural area - and include keeping field
notes and observing natural behaviors of birds. Field trips to sites with bird conservation
and monitoring projects, fosters interest and enthusiasm for wildlife and teaches students
the importance of conserving birds. The opportunity to examine birds up close (such as
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
26
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
with mist-netting) and interact with biologists provides an invaluable experience that
catches students’ interest immediately.
A great way to get students interested in birds is to get them out looking at them. While
access to binoculars is sometimes limiting, you can contact your local Audubon Society,
Nature Center or other local wildlife education group to see if sets are available for check
out. If you feel uncertain of your birding skills, contact your local Audubon Society or
Nature Center to arrange for docents or naturalists who will be able to join your class for
a day of birding in the field. An invaluable experience that catches students’ interest
immediately is to visit a mist-netting site where students will have the opportunity to
examine birds up close and interact with biologists. .
There are many excellent sources for curriculum and hands-on bird activities to be done
in the classroom. Through the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Teacher Resource Packets
are available containing lesson plans and activities for students of all ages, geared
towards teaching students how to observe and study birds. To acquire the PRBO Teacher
Resource packets contact Melissa Pitkin, 4990 Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, CA 94970
(415) 868-1221 ext. 33, or email at [email protected] Each year Partners In Flight
produces a resource directory containing bird related resources on education programs
and materials, education web sites, activities for kids, workshops, and more. To acquire
this guide contact Susan Bonfield, PO Box 23398, Silverthorne, CO 80498 or email
[email protected] Another useful source is A Guide to Bird Education Resources
produced by Partners In Flight and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Copies of this
book are available from American Birding Association Sales, PO Box 6599, Colorado
Springs, CO 80934, phone 1-800-850-2473, [email protected]
Other Grassland Educational Resources
California Native Grass Association -California Native Grass Poster Color pencil
renderings of 25 native grasses, proportionate to each other. English and Latin names of
native grasses. Native grass range maps for each species and text highlighting the benefits
of native grass restoration. Order online at http://www.essexenv.com/cnga/ or call 1-80031-3086
Educational materials coming soon from the California Native Grass Association-see
their website at http://www.essexenv.com/cnga/
Volunteer Involvement
Enlisting volunteers to aid in data collection and restoration is an excellent way to gain
additional help. It is one of the best ways to teach people about conservation.
Increasingly, families and school groups have opportunities to participate in cultivated
habitat restoration projects at local parks or nature preserves. Volunteers that participate
in counting and studying birds quickly develop a connection to them, which intimately
involves the volunteer in the conservation effort. Furthermore, volunteers provide
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
27
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
additional support and resources that make long-term monitoring of songbirds viable. To
ensure reliable data collection, supervisors must match monitoring techniques with the
skill level of the volunteer.
Interpretation at Natural Areas
Interpretation at natural areas is an excellent way to disseminate key concepts about bird
conservation to the public. Displays at preserves, nature trails, picnic areas, and other
natural areas should highlight the birds using the habitats and show the specific features
of the habitat that are critical to bird reproduction and survival, including native plants.
Some effective displays illustrate how individuals can make a difference at home, by
planting native plants in their yards or restraining cats from killing birds. These displays
should be aimed at the general public, emphasizing the causes of the decline of songbirds.
Again, integrating people as part of the solution encourages their support for conservation
issues.
Participation in Birding Festivals and Environmental Fairs
Birding festivals are becoming a popular means of increasing ecotourism, which can help
to promote local support for conservation of natural areas–a requirement for long-term
sustainability of conservation actions. Festivals also present an excellent opportunity to
further educate people already familiar with birds about the scientific reasons behind bird
conservation. Birders already recognize and love birds and can easily be taught the
reasons for bird conservation and what a healthy population of birds needs to survive.
They also constitute a pool of experienced observers who may volunteer for monitoring
programs.
Representation of bird conservation at environmental fairs is another way to reach large
numbers of people and convey the key concepts behind bird conservation. Booths
displaying information on how individuals can help birds along with interactive games or
activities for children engage families and visitors in bird conservation topics.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has published Bridges to Birding, an
interactive program for introducing birds, bird watching and bird conservation to your
community. It contains step by step instructions on how to put on a festival or fair
focusing on birds. To obtain a copy contact IMBD Information Center at (703) 3582318 or [email protected]
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
28
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
Grassland Outreach
Many groups are already working together on projects to preserve and educate
people about Grassland habitats. Activities ranging from workshops, management
guidelines, new partnerships, and removal of exotic species. The groups and their
activities are summarized below:
The California Native Grass Association (CNGA) brings together conservationists,
naturalists, resource managers, horticulturists, seed producers, scientists, consultants and
others in California with an interest in native grasses. All promote native grasses and
associated species for restoration and maintenance of California's grassland ecosystems
and for use in urban and agricultural areas. The CNGA members promote increased use
of quality native grasses from appropriate genetic sources, and their production to
increase availability. CNGA is co-sponsoring production of a new handbook for
agronomic and horticultural uses of native grasses, with an accompanying digital
database. CNGA is also developing educational materials, has established native grass
gardens for review and reference, sponsors grass identification workshops, pamphlets on
selected grasses, hands on restoration workshops, field trips and technical conferences.
http://www.essexenv.com/cnga/
Cooperative Weed Management Areas is a basic organization widely recognized as a
model for carrying out a comprehensive and effective weed management program on the
ground. The intent is to bring together landowners and managers from various private,
non-profit, county, state, and federal agencies combining their expertise, energy, and
resources to deal with a common problem. Contact your county agricultural
commissioner for information on weed management areas in your county.
Future Outreach Priorities
Outreach activities must maintain and build interest in conservation and restoration
efforts in the state. To this purpose, outreach efforts should develop:
•
Greater collaboration between private landowners and biologists to examine
wildlife response to management practices throughout California’s grassland habitats.
•
More contact with resource-based constituencies, such as the agricultural industry,
to foster collaboration in land management, in order to improve habitat for birds
while ensuring that landowners can make a sustainable living.
•
Partnership with the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps
(NASCC), of which the California Conservation Corps is a part. The California
Association of Local Conservation Corps also has 11 members throughout the state
with a trained labor force capable of restoring habitat. These programs improve
environmental quality while providing opportunities for young people to learn and
develop new skills.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
29
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
•
Further educational outreach, particularly the promotion and support of volunteer
monitoring programs. Volunteer monitoring programs are most needed at reference
sites and others that will require long-term monitoring.
•
Grassland and grassland related issues conferences and symposia. These will
highlight recent developments in restoration biology, innovative government
programs and public and private partnerships.
They will also facilitate
communication among restoration biologists, regulatory agencies, land managers, and
landowners throughout the state.
Opportunities for Involvement: What Can One Person Do?
An individual can have a profound impact on the life of a bird and the livelihood of a
species. Human activities can encourage predation of adult birds and their nests by
animals such as domestic cats, raccoons, and jays. They can alter available food
resources by depleting local insects with pesticides. Finally, they can destroy or disrupt
much-needed habitat for nesting and feeding young. But thoughtful activity by humans
can limit these impacts and even encourage successful nesting by songbirds, contributing
to the health of their population
.
The guidelines below can make a critical difference in enhancing the health of a songbird
population. These recommendations apply to most bird species, including coastal scrub
birds.
If you are a bird watcher, volunteer for a monitoring program.
There are increasing opportunities for bird watchers of all skill levels to gain training and
experience in various bird monitoring techniques. Participants gain knowledge in a
subject area of interest, learn new skills, and can directly contribute to the science of
conservation while enjoying birds in the outdoors. There are increasing opportunities to
contribute to bird monitoring projects in habitats throughout the state. (See the PRBO
web site http://www.prbo.org for ways to get involved. Appendices A and B provide
information on bird monitoring techniques and the types of information they provide.)
If you own a cat, help reduce the impact of cats on bird populations.
Domestic cats kill hundreds of millions of native birds, reptiles and small mammals every
year. This unnecessary impact can easily be reduced if cat owners would keep their cats
indoors.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
30
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
The American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors! campaign seeks to educate the public
on the facts of cat predation on birds and other wildlife, and the hazards to free roaming
cats. This information is available at the American Bird Conservancy’s web site at
http://www.abcbirds.org.
Other actions that cat owners can take to help birds:
•Keep cats as indoor pets.
•Spay and neuter your cats.
•Cats on ranches or farms, kept to control rodent populations, should be kept to
a minimum. Spayed females tend not to stray or wander from the barn area. Keeping
feed in closed containers also helps reduce rodent populations (Coleman et al. 1997).
Trapping rodents can also be more effective than relying on cats to do the job.
•Don’t feed stray or feral cat populations. A more humane alternative for cats and
wildlife is to reduce the unwanted cat population by limiting reproduction and
facilitating adoption by responsible pet owners.
•Remove food dishes or garbage that may attract stray cats.
•Support local efforts to remove feral cats.
If you camp, hike, or picnic in the outdoors help maintain the natural balance
between predator and prey.
Do not feed wildlife or allow wildlife access to your trash. This may lead to an increase
in natural predators such as raccoons, fox, ravens, crows, scrub jays, and opossum.
Increased numbers of these predators can depress bird populations.
If you feed birds, avoid doing more harm than good.
Feeding wildlife can be beneficial if properly done, but it always carries the potential for
upsetting the natural balance between native predators and prey species. Improper
feeding can help to spread disease, support predator populations that prey on birds and
other organisms, or increase non-native populations that displace the natives.
•Feeder placement should be away from shrubs or bushes that provide places for
cats to ambush birds (Coleman et al. 1997).
•Avoid feeding birds in the spring and summer. Feeding birds supplements their
natural diet, but springtime feeding may encourage a lower quality diet for nestlings
who need high-protein insects, which are naturally abundant throughout the breeding
season.
•Do not supplement the diet of avian nest predators such as jays, magpies, crows
and ravens by feeding them during the breeding season. These predators tend to
benefit disproportionately from human habitation, and as their populations expand
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
31
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 6. Outreach and Education
they are negatively affecting the health of other bird populations. The National
Audubon Society produces bird feeders that discourage use by avian predators.
•Avoid supplementing the diet of Brown-headed Cowbirds, which parasitize
songbird nests. If cowbirds come to your feeder, try eliminating millet from the
birdseed you provide. Evidence indicates that Brown-headed Cowbirds are attracted
to bird feeders primarily for millet. Sunflower seeds and other types of birdseed
attract many songbird species, but may not attract cowbirds.
•When feeding birds in winter, feed them consistently. Some wintering birds may
become dependent upon winter bird feeders, thus a consistent supply of food is
important. Change birdseed if it gets wet from rain as the moisture may promote
mildew or sprouting, which can cause birds to become ill.
•In feeding hummingbirds, use a solution of four parts water to one part sugar.
Do not use brown sugar, artificial sweeteners or red dye. Place the feeders in the
shade and change the feeder solution every three to four days to avoid cultivating
pathogens that can cause hummingbirds to become ill. In freezing weather, bring
feeders indoors at dusk and return them with lukewarm fluid at dawn. Clean feeders
every 10 days using a few drops of bleach in the wash water, and let stand before
rinsing. Rinse thoroughly many times.
If you find an injured bird or a baby bird:
•Baby birds will often leave the nest before they look fully-grown. Such birds are
often mistaken for “abandoned.” Their parents, however, can find them on the ground
and will feed them. Most fledglings will continue to be fed by their parents even after
leaving the nest. It is therefore best to leave young uninjured birds alone, as it is
likely their parents are nearby. It is not true that parents will avoid young after
humans have handled them. Fledglings should not generally be returned to their nest,
as this may disturb the nest site. Trampled vegetation and human activity can alert
predators to the presence of the nest. Allowing baby birds to remain in the care of
their parents provides them their best opportunity for survival.
•Injured birds can be taken to wildlife rehabilitation clinics and programs. It is
best to keep injured birds in a warm, dry, quiet place free from disturbance (such as a
shoebox with the lid on and a few holes for air) until they can be transferred to a
licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility. Call the facility before you visit.
•Be aware that it is against federal law to collect birds or their nests without a
permit.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
32
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 4. Problems Affecting Grassland Birds
KEY CONCEPTS ABOUT BIRD CONSERVATION
The following list of key concepts for bird conservation should be communicated through
education and outreach programs. These concepts are important to include in any program concerning
conservation, and are indispensable in programs focusing on birds and riparian habitats.
•
Reproductive success may be the most important factor influencing population health. It
contributes directly to a population's size and viability in an area. A number of factors influence
reproductive success, including predation, parasitism, nest site availability, and food availability.
•
Nesting habitat requirements vary among species. Different bird species place their nests in
different locations, from directly on the ground to the tops of trees. Most birds nest within five
meters of the ground. Managers should consider that habitat needs for different species vary.
Leave grass and forbs greater than 6 inches in height for ground nesters, shrubs and trees for low
to mid-height nesters, dead trees and snags for cavity nesters, and old, tall trees for birds that build
their nests in the canopy.
•
The breeding season is a short but vital period in birds' lives. Birds nest during the spring and
early summer of each year and raise their young in a rather short period. Nestlings are particularly
sensitive to changes in the environment and are sensitive indicators of ecosystem health.
Disturbance, such as vegetation clearing, habitat restoration, and recreation may result in nest
abandonment, remove potential nest sites, directly destroy nests, expose nests to predators, and
decrease food sources such as insects. Predators, such as domestic cats, skunks and jays, can
decimate breeding populations, and managers should avoid subsidizing their populations.
•
Understory (the weedy, shrubby growth underneath trees) is crucial to many birds. A
healthy and diverse understory with lots of ground cover offers well-concealed nest and foraging
sites. Manicured parks and mowed lawns provide poor nesting conditions for all but a few bird
species.
•
Native plants are important to birds. Native bird populations evolved with the local vegetation,
learning to forage upon and nest in certain species. Introduced plant species may not provide the
same nutrition or nest site quality. Introduced plants can also quickly dominate an area, reducing
the diversity of vegetation. Less diverse vegetation can lower the productivity and viability of a
bird population.
•
Natural predator-prey relationships are balance, but human disturbance creates an
imbalanced system. Interactions with predators are a natural and essential part of an ecosystem.
However, a preponderance of non-native predators or a sustained surplus of natural predators
severely affects the health and persistence of bird populations. Feeding wildlife, especially foxes,
raccoons, and skunks, should be discouraged. Feeders that are frequented by jays and crows and
cowbirds should not be maintained during the breeding season (most songbirds feed their young
insects). Domestic and feral cats are responsible for an estimated 4.4 million birds killed each day
by cats (Stallcup 1991). It is not true that a well-fed cat will not hunt! In fact, a healthy cat is a
more effective predator.
•
Natural processes, such as flood and fire, are integral to a healthy ecosystem. They provide
the natural disturbance needed in an area to keep the vegetative diversity high, an important factor
for birds.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 7. References
7. References
Baker, H.G. 1989. Sources of the naturalized grasses and herbs in California grasslands
in Grassland structure and function: California annual grassland. pp 29-38.
Kluwer Academic, Boston.
Bartelt, G.A. 1997. Improving habitat quality of rotationally grazed pastures for
grassland birds. Final report to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 7
pp.
Biswell, H.H. 1956. Ecology of California grasslands. Journal of Range Management. 9:
19-24.
Blumler, M. 1993. Some myths about California grasslands and grazers. Fremontia 20
(3):22-27.
Bock, C.E., J.H. Bock, W.R. Kerney, and V.M. Hawthorne. 1984a. Responses of birds,
rodents, and vegetation to livestock exclosure in a semidesert grassland site.
Journal of Range Management. 37(3):239-242.
Bock, C.E. and B.Webb. 1984b. Birds as a grazing indicator species in southeastern
Arizona. Journal of Wildlife Management. 37:239-242.
Bock, C.E. and J.H. Bock. 1992. Response of birds to wildfire in native versus exotic
Arizona grassland. The Southwestern Naturalist. 37(1): 73-81.
Bock, C.E. and J.H. Bock, and B.C. Bennett. 1999. Songbird abundance in grasslands at a
suburban interface on the Colorado high plains. Studies in Avian Biology.
19:131-136.
Bowen, B.S. and A.D. Kruse. 1993. Effects of grazing on nesting by upland sandpipers
in southcentral North Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management. 57: 291-301.
Burcham, L.T. 1957. California range land: an historico-ecological study of the range
resource of California. California Department of Natural Resources, Sacramento.
Crouch, G.L. 1982. Wildlife on ungrazed and grazed bottomlands on the South Platte
River, northeastern Colorado in Proceedings of the wildlife-livestock
relationships symposium. pp 186-198. University of Idaho, Moscow.
Davis, F. W., D. M. Stoms, A. D. Hollander, K. A. Thomas, P. A. Stine, D. Odion, M. I.
Borchert, J. H. Thorne, M. V. Gray, R. E. Walker, K. Warner, and J. Graae. 1998.
The California Gap Analysis Project--Final Report. University of California,
Santa Barbara, CA. [http://www.biogeog.ucsb.edu/projects/gap/gap_rep.html]
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
34
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 7. References
DeSante, D. F. 1992. Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS): a sharp,
rather than blunt, tool for monitoring and assessing landbird populations (in D. R.
McCullough and R.H. Barrett, eds.) Wildlife 2001: Populations, pp. 511-521.
Elsevier Applied Science. London, U.K.
DeSante, D. F., K. M. Burton, J. F. Saracco, and B. L. Walker. 1995. Productivity
indices and survival rate estimates from MAPS, a continent-wide program of
constant-effort mist-netting in North America. Journal of Applied Statistics
22:935-947.
DeSante, D. F. and D. K. Rosenberg. 1998. What do we need to monitor in order to
manage landbirds? pp. 93-110 in J.M. Marzluff and R. Sallabanks (Eds.), Avian
Conservation: Research and Management, Island Press, Washington, D.C.
DeSante, D. F., K. M. Burton, P. Velez, and D. Froehlich. 1999a. MAPS Manual: 1999
Protocolo. The Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station, CA. 49 pp.
DeSante, D. F., D. R. O’Grady, and P. Pyle. 1999b. Measures of productivity and
survival derived from standardized mist netting are consistent with observed
population trends. Bird Study 46 (suppl.): s178-s188.
Fredrickson, L.H. and M.K. Laubhan. 1995. Land use impacts and habitat preservation in
the grasslands of western Merced County, California. Grassland Water District,
Los Banos. 83pp.
Gardali, T., G. Ballard, N. Nur, and G. R. Geupel. 2000. Demography of a declining
population of Warbling Vireos in coastal California. The Condor 102:601-609.
Geupel, G. R. and I. G. Warkentin. 1995. Field methods for monitoring population
parameters of landbirds in Mexico. in Conservation of Neotropical migratory
birds in Mexico, M. Wilson and S. Sader (Eds.), Maine Agricultural and Forest
Experiment Station Miscellaneous Publication 727, UNAM-UmaineUSFWS/NBS, Orno, Maine.
Hamilton, B., L Cook and K. Hunting 1999. Tricolored Blackbirds 1999 Status Report.
Unpublished report to California Department of Fish and Game.
Heady, H.F. 1977. Valley Grassland in Terrestrial Vegetation of California, pp 733-760.
New York, J.Wiley-Interscience.
Herkert, J.R. 1994. The Effects of Habitat fragmentation on midwestern grassland bird
communities. Ecological Applications. 4(3): 461-471.
Huenneke, L.F. 1989. Distribution and regional patterns of Californian grasslands in
Grassland structure and function: California annual grassland. pp 1-12. Kluwer
Academic, Boston.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
35
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 7. References
Johnson, D.H. 1997. Effects of fire on bird populations in mixed-grass prairie. Pp 181206 in F.L. Knopf and F.B. Samson (editors). Ecology and conservation of Great
Plains vertebrates. Springer-Verlag. New York, NY.
Johnson, R.G. and S.A. Temple. Nest predation and brood parasitism of tallgrass prairie
birds. Journal of Wildlife Management. 54(1): 106-111.
Kie, J. 1988. Annual Grassland. PP118-119. In K. Mayer and W. Laudenslayer. Eds. A
Guide to Wildlife Habitats of Califonia. CA Dept For. And Fire Protection.
Kie, J. 1988. Perennial Grassland. PP. 120-121-1.. In K. Mayer and W. Laudenslayer.
Eds. A Guide to Wildlife Habitats of Califonia. CA Dept For. And Fire
Protection.
Kruse, A.D. and B.S. Bowen 1996. Effects of grazing and burning on densities and
habitats of breeding ducks in North Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management.
60(2): 233-246.
Kuchler, A.W. 1977. Natural Vegetation of California (map) in Terresterial vegetation of
California. pp 43. J. Wiley-Interscience, New York.
Martin, T. E. and G. R. Geupel. 1993. Nest monitoring plots: Methods for locating nests
and monitoring success. J. Field. Ornith. 64: 507-519.
Mayer, K.E. and W.F. Laudenslayer, Jr. 1988. A Guide to Wildlife Habitats of
California. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Sacramento,
CA.
Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1999. Summary Report- 1997 National
Resources Inventory. Available online.
Nur, N., G. R. Geupel, and S. L. Jones. 1999. A statistical guide to data analysis of
avian population monitoring Programs. U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and
Wildlife Service, BTP-R6001-1999, Washington, D.C.
Patterson, M.P. and L.B. Best. 1995. Bird abundance and nesting success in Iowa CRP
fields: the importance of vegetation structure and composition. American Midland
Naturalist. 135:153-167.
Preston, W.L. 1981. Vanishing Landscapes: Land and life in the Tulare Lake Basin.
University of California Press, Berkeley.
Ralph, C. J., G. R. Guepel, P. Pyle, T. E. Martin, and D. F. Desante. 1993. Field
methods for monitoring landbirds. USDA Forest Service Publication, PSW-GTR
144. Albany, CA.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
36
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 7. References
Ralph, C. J., J. R. Sauer and S. Droege. 1995. Monitoring bird populations by point
counts. USDA Forest Service Publication, PSW-GTR 149, Albany CA.
Risser, P.G., E.C. Birney, H.D. Blocker, S.W. May, W.J. Parton, and J.A. Wiens. 19811. The True Prairie Ecosystem. Hutchinson Ross Publishing Company,
Stroudburg, PA.
Robbins, C. S. 1970. Recommendations for an international standard for a mapping
method in bird census work. Aud. Field Notes 24:723-726.
Rohrbaugh, R.W., D.L. Reinking, D.H. Wolfe, S.K. Sherrod, and M.L. Jenkins. 1999.
Effects of prescribed burning and grazing on nesting and reproductive success of
three grassland passerine species in tallgrass prairie. Studies in Avian Biology.
19:165-170.
Rotenberry, J.T. 1998. Avian conservation research needs in western shrublands: exotic
invaders and the alteration of ecosystem processes in Avian Conservation. pp
261-272. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Saab, V.A., C.E. Bock, T.D. Rich, and D.S. Dobkin. 1995 Livestock grazing effects in
western North America. Pages 311-353 in T.E Martin and D.M. Finch, editors.
Ecology and management of neotropical migratory birds. Oxford University
Press. New York, N.Y.
Samson, F.B. 1980. Island biogeography and the conservation of prairie birds.
Proceedings of the North American Prairie Conference 7:293-305.
Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, G. Gough, I. Thomas, and B. G. Peterjohn. 1997. The North
American Breeding Bird Survey Results and Analysis. Version 96.3. Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
Vickery, P.D., M.L. Hunter, and J.V. Wells. 1992. Use of a new reproductive index to
evaluate relationship between habitat quality and breeding success. Auk.
109(4):697-705.
Vickery, P.D., M.L. Hunter, and S.M. Melvin. 1994. Effects of habitat area on the
distribution of grassland birds in Maine. Conservation Biology. 8(1):1087-1097.
Vickery, P.D., P.L. Tubaro, J.M. Cardoso da Silva, B.G. Peterjohn, J.R. Herkert, and
R.B. Cavalcanti. 1999a. Conservation of grassland birds in western hemisphere.
Studies in Avian Biology. 19:2-26.
Vickery, P.D. , M.L. Hunter, J.V. Wells. 1999b. Effects of fire and herbicide treatment
on habitat selection in grassland birds in southern Maine. Studies in Avian
Biology. 19:149-159.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
37
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Chapter 7. References
Whisenant, S.G. 1990. Changing fire frequencies on Idaho’s Snake River plains:
ecological and management implications in Proceedings: Symposium on
Cheatgrass Invasion, shrub die off, and other aspects of shrub biology and
management. pp 4-10. United States Forest Service General Technical Report,
Boise.
Zimmerman, J.L. 1992. Density-independent factors affecting avian diversity of the
tallgrass prairie community. Wilson Bulletin. 104(1):85-94.
Zimmerman, J.L. 1997. Avian community responses to fire, grazing, and drought in the
tallgrass prairie. Pp 167-180 in F.L. Knopf and F.B. Samson (editors). Ecology
and conservation of Great Plains vertebrates. Springer-Verlag. New York, NY .
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
38
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
Appendix A. Resources
A. Programs for Landowners and Managers:
The following programs are designed to benefit landowners and wildlife. By combining
participation in the following programs with bird monitoring we can gain knowledge
about wildlife response to a variety of different management practices.
US Department of Agriculture—Natural Resources Conservation
Service Programs
While there are a variety of USDA programs available to assist people with their
conservation needs, the following primarily financial assistance programs are the
principal programs available. Locally led conservation groups are encouraged to contact
the State offices of the appropriate agency for specific information about each program.
For more information about any of the following NRCS programs:
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Attn: Conservation Communications Staff
P.O. Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
A voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat
primarily on private lands. It provides both technical assistance and cost-share payments
to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat.
Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
The purpose of the program is to assist land-users, communities, units of state and local
government, and other Federal agencies in planning and implementing conservation
systems. The purpose of the conservation systems are to reduce erosion, improve soil and
water quality, improve and conserve wetlands, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve
air quality, improve pasture and range condition, reduce upstream flooding, and improve
woodlands.
Objectives of the program are to:
"
Assist individual land-users, communities, conservation districts, and other units of
State and local government and Federal agencies to meet their goals for resource
stewardship and assist individuals to comply with State and local requirements.
NRCS assistance to individuals is provided through conservation districts in
accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed by the Secretary of
Agriculture, the governor of the state, and the conservation district. Assistance is
provided to land users voluntarily applying conservation and to those who must
comply with local or State laws and regulations.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
39
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
"
Assist agricultural producers to comply with the highly erodible land (HEL) and
wetland (Swampbuster) provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act as amended by the
Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 3801 et. seq.) and
the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 and wetlands
requirements of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. NRCS makes HEL and wetland
determinations and helps land users develop and implement conservation plans to
comply with the law.
"
Provide technical assistance to participants in USDA cost-share and conservation
incentive programs. (Assistance is funded on a reimbursable basis from the CCC.)
"
Collect, analyze, interpret, display, and disseminate information about the condition
and trends of the Nation’s soil and other natural resources so that people can make
good decisions about resource use and about public policies for resource
conservation.
"
Develop effective science-based technologies for natural resource assessment,
management, and conservation.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The Conservation Reserve Program reduces soil erosion, protects the Nation's ability to
produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water
quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources. It
encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally
sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings,
trees, filterstrips, or riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the
term of the multi-year contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover
practices.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides technical, educational, and
financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related
natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and costeffective manner. The program provides assistance to farmers and ranchers in complying
with Federal, State, and tribal environmental laws, and encourages environmental
enhancement. The program is funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation. The
purposes of the program are achieved through the implementation of a conservation plan
that includes structural, vegetative, and land management practices on eligible land. Five
to ten-year contracts are made with eligible producers. Cost share payments may be made
to implement one or more eligible structural or vegetative practices, such as animal waste
management facilities, terraces, filter strips, tree planting, and permanent wildlife habitat.
Incentive payments can be made to implement one or more land management practices,
such as nutrient management, pest management, and grazing land management.
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/enhancement.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
40
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
Conservation Farm Option (CFO)
The Conservation Farm Option is a pilot program for producers of wheat, feed grains,
cotton, and rice. The program's purposes include conservation of soil, water, and related
resources, water quality protection and improvement, wetland restoration, protection and
creation, wildlife habitat development and protection, or other similar conservation
purposes. Eligibility is limited to owners and producers who have contract acreage
enrolled in the Agricultural Market Transition Act program, i.e. production flexibility
contracts. The CFO is a voluntary program. Participants are required to develop and
implement a conservation farm plan. The plan becomes part of the CFO contract that
covers a ten-year period. CFO is not restricted as to what measures may be included in
the conservation plan, so long as they provide environmental benefits. During the
contract period the owner or producer (1.) receives annual payments for implementing
the CFO contract and (2.) agrees to forgo payments under the Conservation Reserve
Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program in exchange for one consolidated payment.
Conservation of Private Grazing Land Initiative (CPGL)
The Conservation of Private Grazing Land initiative will ensure that technical,
educational, and related assistance is provided to those who own private grazing lands. It
is not a cost share program. This technical assistance will offer opportunities for: better
grazing land management; protecting soil from erosive wind and water; using more
energy-efficient ways to produce food and fiber; conserving water; providing habitat for
wildlife; sustaining forage and grazing plants; using plants to sequester greenhouse gases
and increase soil organic matter; and using grazing lands as a source of biomass energy
and raw materials for industrial products. More information can be found at the Grazing
Lands Technology Institute at http://www.ftw.nrcs.usda.gov/glti/homepage.html.
Conservation Plant Material Centers
The purpose of the program is to provide native plants that can help solve natural
resource problems. Beneficial uses for which plant material may be developed include
biomass production, carbon sequestration, erosion reduction, wetland restoration, water
quality improvement, streambank and riparian area protection, coastal dune stabilization,
and other special conservation treatment needs. Scientists at the Plant Materials Centers
seek out plants that show promise for meeting an identified conservation need and test
their performance. After species are proven, they are released to the private sector for
commercial production. The work at the 26 centers is carried out cooperatively with state
and Federal agencies, commercial businesses, and seed and nursery associations.
US Fish and Wildlife Service—Partners for Fish and Wildlife
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is, by working with others, to
conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing
benefit of the American people. The Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife program,
formerly named the Partners for Wildlife program, helps accomplish this mission by
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
41
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
offering technical and financial assistance to private (non-federal) landowners to
voluntarily restore wetlands and other fish and wildlife habitats on their land. The
program emphasizes the reestablishment of native vegetation and ecological communities
for the benefit of fish and wildlife in concert with the needs and desires of private
landowners.
For more information about any of the following US Fish and Wildlife programs:
http://partners.fws.gov/index.htm
Partners for Fish and Wildlife
State Coordinator
2800 Cottage Way W-2610
Sacramento, CA 95825
916-414-6446
The assistance that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers to private landowners may
take the form of informal advice on the design and location of potential restoration
projects, or it may consist of designing and funding restoration projects under a voluntary
cooperative agreement with the landowner. Under the cooperative agreements, the
landowner agrees to maintain the restoration project as specified in the agreement for a
minimum of 10 years.
Restoration projects may include, but are not limited to:
" planting native grasslands and other vegetation
" planting native trees and shrubs in formerly forested wetlands and other habitats
" prescribed burning as a method of removing exotic species and to restore natural
disturbance regimes necessary for some species survival
" removal of exotic plants and animals which compete with native fish and wildlife and
alter their natural habitats
The California Department of Fish and Game
The Department provides information and recommendations to private landowners on
programs and activities for the protection, management, and enhancement of native
wildlife, fish, plants, and habitats.
For more information on any of the following California Dept. of Fish and Game
programs:
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/habitats.html
Branch Chief
1416 9th Street
Sacramento, Ca 95814
(916) 653-4875
Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture (CVHJV): The California Central Valley Habitat
Joint Venture is a cooperative effort of state and federal agencies, and private
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
42
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
organizations to implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Habitat
joint venture actions include protection, restoration, and enhancement of wetland and
associated upland habitats. Protection strategies include habitat acquisition, conservation
easements, leases, and management agreements with private landowners.
The Inland Wetlands Conservation Program of the Wildlife Conservation Board has
made significant contributions toward achieving the specific objectives outlined in the
CVHJV Plan. These contributions will ultimately result in the restoration, enhancement
and protection of critical habitat necessary to support the millions of migratory waterfowl
dependent upon the Central Valley of California. The language establishing the program
is available. A similar program, focusing specifically on riparian areas is the WCB's
recently established California Riparian Habitat Conservation Program (CRHCP).
Natural Communities Conservation Program (NCCP): The Natural Community
Conservation Planning (NCCP) program of the California Resources Agency and the
Department of Fish and Game is an unprecedented effort by the State of California, and
numerous private and public partners, that takes a broad-based ecosystem approach to
planning for the protection and perpetuation of biological diversity. An NCCP identifies
and provides for the regional or areawide protection of plants, animals, and their habitats,
while allowing compatible and appropriate economic activity. The program seeks to
involve public and private landowners/administrators in large-scale conservation
planning efforts to ensure the long-term integrity of natural communities and
accommodate compatible land use. The pilot program involves coastal sage scrub habitat
in Southern California, home to the California gnatcatcher and approximately 90 other
potentially threatened or endangered species.
Programs and Information of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District:
For more information on any of the following Yolo County RCD programs and
publications:
http://www.yolorcd.ca.gov/programs/
221 W. Court Street, Ste. 1
Woodland,CA 95695
530/662-2037 ext. 202
Farming with Wildlife: funded by US EPA, 1993 to 1996. Sponsored a number of
annual Farming for Wildlife Workshops, produced professional video "Working Habitat
for Working Farms" and slide show presentations on local practices and achievements,
funded printing of comprehensive, lucidly written "Farming for Wildlife" manual for
statewide distribution.
Irrigation Ecosystem and Water Quality Grant: funded by US EPA through the State
Water Resources Control Board, 1995 - Fall of 1997. Revegetating canal banks, natural
sloughs, and county roadsides, and building irrigation tailwater ponds—all aiming to
decrease erosion and sediment loss, improve water quality, groundwater recharge and
water flow, and increase biological diversity.
IPM-Hedgerow Grant: funded by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation, 199698, with a third year likely. Designing and creating five disparate, native plant Hedgerow
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
43
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
systems to harbor beneficial insects and pest predators (bats, owls, and raptors), control
erosion and noxious weed growth, reduce chemical spraying and stray drift, labor costs,
and accidents from working awkward set-asides.
Operation Greenstripe: Monsanto Corporation began the Greenstripe program in the
mid-west to encourage use of vegetated filter strips along waterways to block damaging
sediments from entering creeks and lakes. The Yolo RCD was the first organization in
the western U.S. to partner with Monsanto on this important project. In our case, the
company will give $100 to any FFA or 4-H chapter whose members assist in vegetating
each irrigation tailwater pond.
Bringing Farm Edges Back to Life: A publication of the Yolo County RCD Presents
ways that local farmers and landowners can implement conservation practices on their
farms that will enable them to meet the multiple objectives of conserving soil and water
and improving wildlife habitat while maintaining intensive agricultural production.
Information from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:
P.O. Box 59/2501 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97201
503/229-5410
Landowner’s Guide to Creating Grassland Habitat for the Western Meadowlark
and Oregon’s Other Grassland Birds:
A publication that discusses biology, habitat needs for songbirds, management actions to
improve existing habitat, creating habitat, and more.
B. General Information
An extremely useful source of information on grassland birds can be found at:
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/literatr/grasbird/grasbird.htm
The Information Center for the Environment, at http://ice.ucdavis.edu/, is a
cooperative effort of environmental scientists at the University of California, Davis and
collaborators at over thirty private, state, federal, and international organizations
interested in environmental protection.
Within this site, find the California Ecological Restoration Projects Inventory
(CERPI) (direct link: http://endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/cerpi/) and the California Noxious
Weeds Projects Inventory (CNWCPI). (direct link: http://endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/weeds/)
"
CERPI is a combined private/non-profit/government effort to establish a database,
accessible through the Internet, containing information on restoration projects in
California. This information will further the practice and science of restoration and
assist agencies and practitioners during restoration planning and implementation.
CNWCPI is a combined government/private/non-profit effort to establish a database,
accessible through the Internet, containing information on noxious weed control in
California. This information will further the practice and science of noxious weed
control and assist agencies and practitioners doing noxious weed control throughout
the state.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
44
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix A. Resources
CERPI and CNWCPI are both programs of the Natural Resource Projects Inventory
(NRPI)
The California Environmental Resources Evaluation System
http://www.ceres.ca.gov/index.html
CERES is an information system developed by the California Resources Agency to
facilitate access to a variety of electronic data describing California's rich and diverse
environments. The goal of CERES is to improve environmental analysis and planning by
integrating natural and cultural resource information from multiple contributors and by
making it available and useful to a wide variety of users.
California Wildlife Habitat Relationships, at
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/whdab/cwhr/whrintro.html,
California Wildlife Habitat Relationships (CWHR) is a state-of-the-art information
system for California's wildlife. CWHR contains life history, management, and habitat
relationships information on 675 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals
known to occur in the state. CWHR products are available to purchase by anyone
interested in understanding, conserving, and managing California's wildlife.
A Manual of California Vegetation (Sawyer and Keeler-Wolf ) on line at
http://endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/cnps/
Wildlands Project Conservation Planning Efforts: http://www.twp.org/
The mission of the Wildlands Project is to protect and restore the natural heritage of
North America through the establishment of a connected system of wildlands. Current
planning efforts can be found at http://www.twp.org/aboutus/aboutus.html
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
45
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations
Adaptive management requires the periodical gathering of information to ascertain
whether management actions are achieving desired results. The most comprehensive and
rigorous way of collecting this information is through a strategic program of monitoring
using standardized methods that can be compared between years and between regions.
Restoration and land stewardship programs need to build in longterm monitoring
programs to assess the effectiveness of their activities. Without such data in the long
term, such programs will ultimately have little on which to base claims of success or the
need for continued funding.
Research and Monitoring
If habitat restoration or management is undertaken to benefit wildlife species, wildlife
monitoring becomes the ultimate measure of success. There are many reasons that bird
monitoring should be adopted as a basic component of longterm stewardship in preserves
with significant riparian habitats or significant bird populations:
•Birds are highly visible and cost effective to monitor.
•Birds can show relatively quick response in abundance and diversity to restored
habitats (35 years).
•Many Neotropical migrants are dependent on early successional development in
riparian habitats; therefore, they are good indicators of the success of natural
recruitment restoration on an ecosystem scale.
•As secondary consumers (i.e., insectivores), birds are sensitive indicators of
environmental change.
•By managing for a diversity of birds, most other elements of biodiversity are
conserved.
•Bird monitoring can avoid future listing of declining species by identifying problems
and solutions early.
•The only way to measure special-status bird species response to management and
restoration is by monitoring bird populations.
•Because of the increasing popularity of birdwatching, there is great potential for
public participation in bird monitoring.
•Birds are tremendously important culturally and economically and their popularity
can help raise awareness of land-stewardship needs.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
46
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations
Monitoring Strategically
Monitoring can be conducted at varying levels of intensity, depending on the objectives
to be achieved and the resources available. The standardization of protocols is critical to
comparing results across space and time. Many recent programs (Ralph et al. 1995,
Martin et al. 1997, DeSante et al. 1999a) and publications (Ralph et al. 1993, Geupel and
Warkentin 1995, DeSante et al. 1995, 1998, 1999b, Nur et al. 1999) have summarized
methods, objectives, and how to use results.
Monitoring programs should always include an analysis plan and identification of issues
or site-specific projects to be assessed. The primary purpose of site-specific monitoring
is to assess the effects on wildlife of natural and anthropogenic stressors or disturbances
in the environment. This knowledge is critical in determining the relative priority of
identified conservation problems and in developing effective measures to address those
problems. Monitoring is an integral component of the adaptive management feedback
loop, allowing land managers, conservation groups, and land owners to assess the
effectiveness of their habitat management and restoration programs.
Standardized monitoring across many sites at varying scales can be analyzed to highlight
broad changes or trends in species presence, diversity, abundance and productivity.
Ideally, a series of reference sites with long-term monitoring, using most if not all
protocols below, will be developed for each California bioregion. Other sites will be
monitored more opportunistically, depending on the objectives of the landowner.
The following is a list of common monitoring regimes from least to most intensive.
1) Rapid assessment of habitat or designation of Important Bird Areas based on
general vegetation characteristics and presence/absence of indicator species.
Method: area search or point count as little as one census per site per year.
2) Determine breeding status, habitat association, restoration evaluation and/or
evaluation of changes in management practices.
Method: area search or point count two or more times per year for 3 years. For
restoration evaluation every other year, censusing should continue for at least 10
years.
3) Determination of population health or source/sink status.
Method: census combined with demographic monitoring for a minimum of 3
years (4 years preferable).
4) Reference site.
Method: point count census, constant effort mist netting and nest monitoring at a
minimum of every other year for 10 years.
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
47
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations
Long-term Monitoring
Long-term monitoring provides a wealth of useful information about bird populations. In
addition to parameters that can be determined by both short- and long-term monitoring
(such as annual productivity, abundance, and diversity), patterns of variation in
reproductive success and trends in abundance and diversity may also be described. Longterm monitoring is also the only method to monitor natural and human-induced changes
in bird populations.
The Palomarin Field Station of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory provides an excellent
example of the utility of a long-term monitoring program. Biologists have conducted
mist-netting at the site for over twenty years. With the data collected, they have
documented a population decline of Warbling Vireos and linked it to reproductive failure
on the breeding grounds (Gardali 2000).
Standardized Methods Adopted by the Western Working Group
and Monitoring Working Group of Partners in Flight
These are listed from least to most intensity of effort. All are described in detail in
Handbook of Field Methods for Monitoring Landbirds (Ralph et al. 1993).
Area Search
The Area Search, adopted from the Australian Bird Count, is a habitat specific, time
constraint census method to measure relative abundance and species composition. It may
also provide breeding status. While still quantitative, this technique is ideal for
volunteers as it mimics the method that a birder would use while searching for birds in a
given area, allowing the observer to track down unfamiliar birds.
Point Count
The point count method is used to monitor population changes of breeding landbirds.
With this method, it is possible to study the yearly changes of bird populations at fixed
points and differences in species composition between habitats and assess breeding status
and abundance patterns of species. The objective of point count vegetation assessment is
to relate the changes in bird composition and abundance to differences in vegetation.
These vegetation changes can either be over time or differences between habitats or study
sites.
Mist Netting
Mist netting provides insight into the health and demographics of the population of birds
being studied. Mist nets provide valuable information on productivity, survivorship, and
recruitment. With these data, managers will have information on the possible causes of
landbird declines or their remedies. This method is currently being used nationwide in
the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program (DeSante 1992).
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
48
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
Appendix B. How to Monitor Bird Populations
Territory Mapping
Also known as “spot mapping,” based on the territorial behavior of birds, where locations
of birds are marked on a detailed map during several visits (a minimum of eight) in the
breeding season. By counting the number of territories in an area, this method estimates
the density of birds. Distribution of territories, species richness, and diversity is also
documented. This is an excellent method for assessing areas with limited habitat.
Standard methods are described by Robbins (1970) and used by The Cornell Laboratory
of Ornithology’s resident bird counts.
Nest Monitoring
Also called nest searching, this technique measures nesting success in specific habitats
and provides information on trends in recruitment; measurement of vegetation associated
with nests may identify habitat influences on breeding productivity. Examination of
nests also allows collection of life-history data (e.g., clutch size, number of broods,
numbers of nesting attempts), which provide important insight into vulnerability of
species to decimation or perturbations (Martin and Geupel 1993).
Draft Grassland Bird Conservation Plan
California Partners in Flight
49
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF

advertisement