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Nest Survival of American Coots Relative to Grazing, Burning, and Water Depths

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Author(s): Jane E. Austin | Deborah A. Buhl

Journal: Avian Conservation and Ecology
ISSN 1712-6568

Volume: 6;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: American Coot | Fulica americana | grazing | hydrology | Idaho | nest survival | prescribed burning

ABSTRACT
Water and emergent vegetation are key features influencing nest site selection and success for many marsh-nesting waterbirds. Wetland management practices such as grazing, burning, and water-level manipulations directly affect these features and can influence nest survival. We used model selection and before-after-control-impact approaches to evaluate the effects of water depth and four common land-management practices or treatments, i.e., summer grazing, fall grazing, fall burning, and idle (no active treatment) on nest survival of American coots (Fulica americana) nesting at Grays Lake, a large montane wetland in southeast Idaho. The best model included the variables year × treatment, and quadratic functions of date, water depth, and nest age; height of vegetation at the nest did not improve the best model. However, results from the before-after-control-impact analysis indicate that management practices affected nest success via vegetation and involved interactions of hydrology, residual vegetation, and habitat composition. Nest success in idled fields changed little between pre- and post-treatment periods, whereas nest success declined in fields that were grazed or burned, with the most dramatic declines the year following treatments. The importance of water depth may be amplified in this wetland system because of rapid water-level withdrawal during the nesting season. Water and land-use values for area ranchers, management for nesting waterbirds, and long-term wetland function are important considerations in management of water levels and vegetation.
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