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1994 Proceedings
North American Conference on Savannas and Barrens


Michael J. Mossman and David W. Sample

Living in the Edge: 1994 Midwest Oak Savanna Conferences

Grassland bird populations are declining throughout much of the Midwest, including Wisconsin. In order to develop a statewide management plan to maintain or increase these populations, we studied breeding birds and their habitat relationships in a wide variety of grassland and related communities, ranging from native prairies, savannas, and barrens, to agricultural, old field, and other non-native grassland habitats.

This paper presents results from transect counts and habitat cover-estimates on 70 barrens stands on sandy soils in northern and central Wisconsin, plus related habitats, including 21 cutovers and young conifer plantations, and many old fields. We describe the bird communities of seven structural or geographic barrens types, the influence of various management practices and objectives on these communities, and recommendations for future management.

We found that pine and oak barrens support some of the best grassland bird populations in the state, due to their large size and relative ease of management. Barrens have become essential for some species that formerly bred in a wider variety of habitats (e.g., Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Sparrow), and are very important for species such as Upland Sandpiper and Vesper Sparrow.

Our major recommendation is to focus on managing and expanding barrens in four specific landscape-scale sites, where large [> 400 ha (> 1000 A.)] barrens are a major aspect of a more extensive [> 800 ha (> 2000 A.)] fire-maintained landscape that includes pine or oak woodland, and at two smaller sites along river terraces where prairie, barrens and woodland are augmented by managing adjacent public and private lands as non-native, open communities such as pasture and hay. Structural diversity and tract sizes need to be increased.


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