Birds can cause extensive crop damage in the United States. In some regions, depredating species comprise a substantial portion of the total avian population, emphasizing their importance both economically and ecologically. We used the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count data from the south-central United States and mixed-effects models to identify habitat factors associated with population trend and abundance for 5 species: red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), rusty blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), Brewer’s blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus), and European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Overall, we found positive associations between bird abundance and agricultural land-cover for all species. Relationships between abundance and other land-cover types were species-specific, often with contrasting relationships among species. Likewise, we found no consistent patterns among abundance and climate. Of the 5 species, only red-winged blackbirds had a significant population trend in our study area, increasing annually by 2.4%. There was marginal evidence to suggest population increases for rusty blackbirds, whereas all other species showed no trend in population size within our study area. Our study provides managers who are interested in limiting crop damage in the south-central United States with novel information on habitat associations in the region that could be used to improve management and control actions
Strassburg, Matthew; Crimmins, Shawn M.; McKann, Patrick C.; and Thogmartin, Wayne E.
"Winter Habitat Associations of Blackbirds and Starlings Wintering in the South-Central United States,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 9
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol9/iss2/6