Conservation of obligate grassland species requires not only the protection of a sufficiently large area of habitat but also the availability of necessary vegetation characteristics for particular species. As a result land managers must understand which habitat characteristics are important for their target species. To identify the habitat associations of eight species of grassland birds, we conducted bird and vegetation surveys on 66 grassland habitat patches in southwestern Minnesota in 2013 and 2014. Species of interest included sedge wren (Cistothorus platensis), Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Henslow's sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), dickcissel (Spiza americana), bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), and western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). We calculated correlation coefficients between vegetation variables and species density as measures of linear association. We assessed curvilinear relationships with loess plots. We found grassland birds on 95.5% of surveyed sites, indicating remnant prairie in southwestern Minnesota is used by grassland birds. In general individual species showed different patterns of association and most species were tolerant of a wide variety of habitat conditions. The most consistent pattern was a negative association with both the quantity and proximity of trees. Our findings that individual species have different habitat preferences suggest that prairie resource managers may need to coordinate management efforts in order to create a mosaic of habitat types to support multiple species, though tree control will be an important and ongoing management activity at the individual site level.
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