Date of Award

12-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Craig A. Harper

Committee Members

Patrick D. Keyser, Frank T. van Manen, John J. Morgan

Abstract

Reclaimed mines present an opportunity to provide large tracts of habitat for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). Reclaimed mine sites are commonly planted to non–native species, including sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) and tall fescue (Schedonorus phoenix), which can inhibit growth of more desirable plant species and limit favorable structure for bobwhite. Although bobwhite are found on reclaimed mine sites, there have been no studies documenting how bobwhites use various vegetation types common to reclaimed mine land. Habitat use studies can provide information on how bobwhite select vegetation types on these landscapes and help direct future management decisions. We trapped and radio–marked 841 bobwhite, October 2009 to September 2011, on Peabody Wildlife Management Area, a 3,330 ha reclaimed mine in Kentucky, USA, to investigate how bobwhite used vegetation types and responded to habitat management practices. We used 104 individuals to describe habitat use during the breeding season (1 April–30 September). We found 57 nests and analyzed the movements of 23 brooding adults. We used 51 coveys to describe habitat use during the non–breeding season (1 October–31 March). During the non–breeding season, woody edge was used more than would be expected at random (parameter estimates ≤0.017). During the breeding season, nonbreeding bobwhite used firebreaks dominated by winter wheat and shrub vegetation more than any other vegetation types, and used dense, planted native warm–season grasses (NWSG) and WMA roads least (P <0.05). Nests were placed in areas with lower contagion index values than in paired, random locations (parameter estimate = –0.045). Broods used annually disked firebreaks (1.4% of study area) more than any other habitat feature or vegetation type (parameter estimate = 0.933), and used undisturbed areas more than dormant–season burns or disk blocks. The structure and composition of firebreaks likely provided areas that optimized chick mobility and promoted vegetation that encouraged presence of insect–prey for feeding bobwhite broods and adults. Our results suggest that despite plant composition that has traditionally been defined as undesirable, reclaimed lands can provide habitat for bobwhite populations.

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