We surveyed the avian communities of 87 golf courses during the 2002 breeding season to determine whether golf courses provided significant habitat for birds of conservation concern in Virginia. We defined birds of conservation concern as those with breeding priority scores ≥16 in our region, as classified by Partners in Flight (2002). The species richness and relative abundance of birds on golf courses varied widely, but in general, courses supported few birds of conservation concern. We found that a typical course had <7 species of conservation concern at a relative abundance of <2 birds of conservation concern per hectare. This compared unfavorably to richness and relative abundance values found at reference landscapes selected to represent the land that golf courses replaced in this region. Because some golf courses had >3 times as many species of conservation concern as others, we compared the land cover on the richest and most depauperate golf courses in an attempt to explain what attracted birds of conservation concern to some courses but not others. Proportions of forested land within the golf-course boundaries and within 1.5 km of the center of the course were the best predictors of a course's conservation value. Our results suggested that 1) regional planners should not expect typical golf courses to provide more habitat for birds of conservation concern than alternative land uses, including residential or agricultural uses; and 2) designers of golf courses in this region can increase the conservation value of courses by increasing the amount of forested land on the course.
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