Date of Award

Fall 12-20-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences

Major Professor

Dr. Jerome J. Howard

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter H. Yaukey

Third Advisor

Dr. Simon Lailvaux


There has been a critical decline in grassland bird populations due to habitat fragmentation and deterioration, and suppression of natural fires. Alteration of the disturbance cycle may lead to changes in vegetation structure and thus habitat suitability for breeding grassland birds. Management practices at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, including the use of prescribed fire, are in need of evaluation. My study asked what frequency of prescribed burns is necessary to support breeding grassland birds and whether vegetation structure varies among burn units. In this study, bird abundance and species richness did not differ significantly among burn units and vegetation cover-type was not a strong predictor of these factors either. There was evidence of site utilization by breeding grassland birds immediately following a burn, which suggests that the bird community is able to recovery quickly post-fire and these units may serve as viable habitat for breeding grassland birds.


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