The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Continuous Enrollment Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has actively promoted establishment of conservation buffers. Although these programs are intended to benefit wildlife in addition to protecting soil and water resources, benefits to grassland birds may be compromised by narrow widths, presence of woody vegetation, and high predation pressure. During 2001 and 2002, we surveyed breeding grassland birds and searched for nests in 33 CRP filter strips that varied in planting mixture (cool-season vs. warm-season grasses) and adjacent edge type (non-wooded vs. wooded). The most abundant species in filter strips were red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), dickcissel (Spiza americana), song sparrow (Melospiza melodia), and common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas). Relative abundances of birds and nests were similar between cool-season and warm-season planting mixtures. Dickcissels and red-winged blackbirds and their nests were relatively less abundant at wooded than non-wooded sites. Our nest success estimates generally were low in all treatments, and nest success varied little with the variables we studied. Predation was the major cause of nest failure; 62% of all nests were depredated. Although the most common birds using filter strips are generalists, filter strips also have potential to provide breeding habitat for some species of management concern.
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Vol. 69 • No. 1