The University of Arizona

Fire and cattle grazing on wintering sparrows in Arizona grasslands.

C.E. Gordon


This paper reports on the results of a 3-year field study of the effects of spring/summer burning and cattle grazing on wintering sparrows in the grasslands of southeastern Arizona. The effects of fire were studied with 1 year of pre-burn data and 1 year of post-burn data from 1 fire, plus limited sampling from a second fire at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Pima County, Ariz. The effects of grazing were studied by comparing study plots at a site that has not been grazed by cattle since 1968 with a nearby grazed pasture in Santa Cruz County, Ariz. Sparrow abundance was measured as the number of captures from flush-netting sessions conducted by groups of 13-30 volunteers. Vesper (Pocecetes gramineus (Gmelin)) and Savannah (Passerculus sandwichensis (Gmelin)) Sparrows responded positively to fire, while Cassin's Sparrows (Aimophila cassinhi (Woodhouse)) responded negatively. The ecologically and geographically restricted Baird's (Ammodramus bairdil (Audubon)) and Grasshopper (A. savannarum (Gmelin)) Sparrows utilized burned areas during the first post-burn winter and did not significantly respond to fire. Both Ammodramus sparrows also utilized the grazed pasture; they were more abundant there than in the ungrazed study area in 1 year. While field observations and a prior study suggest that heavy grazing can have a strong detrimental effect on Ammodramus sparrows, the results of this study suggest that moderate cattle grazing may be compatible with the conservation of these species.



ammodramus bairdii;ammodramus savannarum ammolegus;aimophila cassinnii;passerculus sandwichensis;wild birds;pooecetes gramineus;prescribed burning;grazing intensity;wildlife management;grazing;Arizona;beef cattle

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