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Relationships between Duck and Grassland Bird Relative Abundance and Species Richness in Southern Saskatchewan

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Author(s): Susan P. Skinner | Robert G. Clark

Journal: Avian Conservation and Ecology
ISSN 1712-6568

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Keywords: abundance | Bird Conservation Region 11 | Canadian Prairies | conservation | ducks | grassland birds | grassland habitat | predicted waterfowl breeding distribution | Saskatchewan | species richness | umbrella guild.

ABSTRACT
Digital map products that integrate long-term duck population and land-use data are currently being used to guide conservation program delivery on the Canadian Prairies. However, understanding the inter-relationships between ducks and other grassland bird species would greatly enhance program planning and delivery. We hypothesized that ducks, and Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) in particular, may function as an umbrella guild for the overall breeding habitat quality for other grassland bird species. We compared grassland bird species richness and relative abundance among areas of low, moderate, and high predicted waterfowl breeding densities (i.e., duck density strata) in the southern Missouri Coteau, Saskatchewan. We conducted roadside point counts and delineated habitats within a 400 m radius of each point. The duck high-density stratum supported greater avian species richness and abundance than did the duck low-density stratum. Overall, duck and other grassland bird species richness and abundance were moderately correlated, with all r between 0.37 and 0.69 (all P < 0.05). Although the habitat requirements of Northern Pintail may overlap with those of other grassland endemics, priority grassland bird species richness was only moderately correlated with total pintail abundance in both years, and the abundances of pintail and grassland songbirds listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada were not correlated. No differences in the mean number of priority grassland species were detected among the strata. Adequate critical habitat for several priority species may not be protected if conservation is focused only in areas of moderate to high wetland density because large tracts of contiguous, dry grassland habitat (e.g., pasture) occur infrequently in high-quality duck habitat.
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