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Ecology of Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) Overwintering in Coastal Pine Savannas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Kelly Morris 1, Mark Woodrey.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecology of Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) Overwintering in Coastal Pine Savannas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Kelly Morris 1, Mark Woodrey."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecology of Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) Overwintering in Coastal Pine Savannas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Kelly Morris 1, Mark Woodrey 2, 3, Scott G. Hereford 4, Eric Soehren 5, Jacob Walker 6 and Scott Rush 1 1 Dept. of Wildlife Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS 2 Mississippi State University - Coastal Research and Extension Center 3 Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Point, MS 4 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Gautier, MS 5 Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division, Midway, AL 6 Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program, Trent University, Peterborough, ON Canada

2 Introduction “common in fall and early spring on open hay fields …” – Golson and Holt Auk 31:218. Wintering studies are limited to coastal Texas, Oklahoma and coastal South Carolina General lack of data along wintering habitats especially in coastal pine savannas along the Gulf Coast of Mexico

3 Southeastern Pine Savanna Once dominated the coastal plains of the southeast United States Characterized by clumps or sparsely distributed trees Ground cover dominated by warm season grasses Historical natural disturbance (fire) Fire plays an essential role in pine savanna communities

4 Objectives – Develop a standardized monitoring protocol – Determine Yellow Rail home range and habitat use in coastal pine savanna habitats – Determine response to prescribed burn regimes Photo: Angela Dedrickson

5 Study Sites

6 Standardized Protocol ~30 min after sunset 10m drag line w/bottles, 1/4 full of rocks attached 4 member crew: 2 pulling drag line 2 evenly spaced behind line Use of fixed positions (Shepard's hook’s w/lanterns) to navigate straight passes Area covered limited by survey site and time not to exceed 2.5 hrs

7 Home Range and Habitat Use Sites were chosen based on known Yellow Rail locations YERA were captured at night using hand nets Morphological measurements 1.2g transmitter attached using modified synsacrum harness (Haramis and Kearns 2000*) * Haramis & Kearns Journal of Field Ornithology, 71(1),

8 Home Range and Habitat Use (2013) Tracked once a day between for up to 30 days Using a modified Robel Pole method a 0.1 ha plot is analyzed, centered on the ‘fix’ location of the bird Veg metrics also analyzed at random associated locations Percent cover of woody and herbaceous species Herbaceous and woody height composition

9 Response to Fire 13 sites chosen based on burn regime and ability to survey – growing season burn (4: MSCNWR 1: GB Forever Wild Savanna,) – dormant season burn (MSCNWR) – growing season burn (MSCNWR) – dormant season burn (MSCNWR) – growing season burn (MSCNWR) – years post burn (1: Jackson County Mitigation Bank, 2: MSCNWR) Unbalanced due to variability in burn treatments on the refuge

10 Results (Surveys) 2011: ~ 2 rails added per hour effort 2012: 52 birds flushed, average 1 bird/survey (38 birds banded) ~ 0.6 birds per hour effort 2013: ~ 0.9 birds added per hour effort

11 Results (Radio-tracking) 20 tracked, 13 reached 30 points Mean home range size was 1.24 ha (SE= 0.21, n=13)

12 Results (Habitat) Areas w/ YERA = less woody cover and < woody height * Different letters reflect significant differences (TukeyHSD) * Values used in analysis were log transformed Woody Cover Woody Height

13 Results (Habitat) Herb cover greater in points w/YERA than points with no birds Herb height greater in points w/YERA and random than points with no birds Herbaceous Cover Herbaceous Height F 2, 1075 = 18.62, P < F 2, 1074 = 23.38, P < 0.001

14 Species Composition (sites with birds vs. no birds) Herbaceous Woody

15 Results 2012 Bird detected vs. not time since fire in days before YERA survey Logistic regression 2013 Detected in 4 of 6 of burn treatments Sites now burned – not burned before Chance to test response to burning Probability of detection

16 Discussion Fire plays an important for overwintering Yellow Rails Yellow Rails are more often found in open areas with limited woody intrusion Relation to other species (plants, animals) - conservation of Bachman’s Sparrow, MS Gopher Frog MS Sandhill Crane, Henslow’s Sparrow Future research is needed in pine savanna systems throughout the southeast Study the effects of invasive species intrusion Synthesis of pine savannas through the southeast to determine distribution, active conservation areas.

17 Acknowledgements Everyone at MSCNWR especially Angela Dedrickson, Maury Bedford, Danny Moss, fire crew and interns. John Trent (AL DCNR), Jennifer Wilson (USFWS),Charlie Brower (USFWS), and all the other volunteers and support that helped make this project possible! Mississippi Ornithological Society


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