We examined relative abundances of grassland birds among Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields seeded with 2 monocultures of introduced grass species and 2 mixes of native grasses in the Southern High Plains of Texas. We assessed bird compositions among these 4 cover types and between the cover types pooled into categories of introduced and native fields. Breeding season bird diversity and total abundance did not differ among cover types or between introduced and native fields. Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), Cassin's Sparrows (Aimophila cassinii), and Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) accounted for more than 90% of breeding season detections. Grasshopper Sparrows were the most abundant and found in all cover types. Cassin's Sparrows were 38% to 170% more abundant among the native seed mix without buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides) compared to 3 other cover types. Although this association was statistically lost when cover types were pooled into introduced or native fields (U = 93.5, P = 0.91), the species was still 50% more abundant among native CRP than introduced CRP fields. Meadowlarks occurred ubiquitously but at very low numbers during the breeding season. During winter, avian abundance was 44% greater among native CRP than introduced CRP fields. Meadowlarks, Homed Larks (Eremophila alpestris), and Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) accounted for 94% of all winter detections. Meadowlarks occurred ubiquitously, but Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows were 157% and 96% more abundant, respectively, among native CRP than introduced CRP fields. Our data suggest that monocultures of introduced grasses may benefit some bird species but also that native seed mixes may have a more positive influence through increased diversity and abundance of grassland birds. However, pooling cover types into the broader categories of introduced or native grasses may dampen or occlude biologically meaningful results. It may be prudent to avoid broad categorization of CRP fields based solely on native or introduced grass cover when assessing habitat associations of grassland birds.
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Vol. 69 • No. 4