Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

David A. Buehler

Committee Members

Joseph D. Clark, Craig A. Harper


Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) populations in Appalachia have declined precipitously over the past 45 years. The primary objective of my study was to monitor the response of Golden-winged Warblers to prescribed fire treatments on reclaimed coal mines in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee. Presence-absence surveys were conducted on eight mountain-top study sites and nest searching/monitoring was conducted on two additional sites, 2009-2011. I expanded on previous research of Golden-winged Warbler territory and nest-site selection by determining differences within main effects between used and unused territory plots, as well as used and unused nest-sites. Of my two nest-searched sites, Ash Log and Massengale Mountains, only Massengale received annual prescribed fire treatments, 2007-2011. Thus, analysis was conducted separately for these two study sites. I also modeled the effects of fire history, as well as temporal and biotic factors, on the variation in daily nest survival rates (DSR). I documented a population increase on Massengale, and no change on four sites. Population decline on three unmanaged sites was correlated with a decrease in shrub and/or Rubus spp. cover, and an increase in sapling height. Territories contained more shrub cover >1 m in height on Massengale and Rubus spp. cover was greater inside territories than on unused plots on Ash Log. No nest-plot variables differed between nest and non-nest plots. The best-supported model of DSR included the effect of year, quadratic time, and the presence of Rubus spp. in nesting substrate. Nesting success was highly variable across years; 10.8 ± 5.4% in 2009, 57.5 ± 8.8% in 2010, and 29.3 ± 10.0% in 2011. With respect to time, nest survival was greatest during peak of nest initiation in early May, declined through the middle of the nesting season, and increased again through the latter half of the season (27 June). Nest success decreased with the presence of Rubus spp. in the nesting substrate. I detected no negative relationship between daily nest survival and fire history. My study suggests that prescribed burning on reclaimed coal mining land is a viable management practice for the creation and maintenance of Golden-winged Warbler breeding habitat.

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