Invasive exotic plants are a major threat to many species of wild birds. When these plants become established and widespread, the floristic composition of native plant communities becomes simplified, which can result in long-term and often irreversible habitat degradation for birds and other animals. Until recently, few studies have focused on the effect of invasive exotic grasses on breeding birds in southwestern rangelands. During the 2001 and 2002 breeding seasons (May-June), we compared the abundance and species richness of breeding birds, native flora, and arthropods on South Texas rangeland plots dominated by native grasses and plots dominated by two invasive exotic grasses, Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana) and buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris). Native-grass cover was >400% greater on native-grass sites than on exotic-grass sites. Forb and grass species-richness were higher on native-grass sites. Shrub canopy cover, bare ground, and vegetation height measurements were similar on native-grass and exotic-grass sites. Overall bird abundance was 32% greater on native-grass sites than on exotic-grass sites. Lark Sparrows (Chondestes grammacus) were 73% more abundant on native-grass sites. Four other species—Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata), Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), and Cassin’s Sparrow (Aimophilla cassini)— were 26–70% more abundant on native-grass sites. The guild of birds that foraged on the ground under open brush canopies was almost twice as abundant on native-grass sites. Arthropod abundance was 60% greater on the native-grass site we sampled. Specifically, spiders, beetles, and ants were 42–83% more abundant on a native-grass site than on a buffelgrass site. Compared with rangelands dominated by native vegetation, areas dominated by Lehmann lovegrass and buffelgrass in South Texas appear to provide less suitable habitat for breeding birds, especially for bird species that forage on or near the ground.
Efectos de Pastos Invasores Exóticos en las Aves que Nidifican en los Campos de Pastoreo del Sur de Texas