Bird abundance and nesting in CRP fields and cropland in the Midwest: A regional approach

Louis B. Best, Henry Campa, Kenneth E. Kemp, Robert J. Robel, Mark R. Ryan, Julie A. Savidge, Harmon P. Weeks, Scott R. Winterstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared the abundance and nesting success of avian species in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields during the summer with that in rowcrop fields over 5 years (1991-1995) for 6 midwestern states (Ind., la., Kans., Mich., Mo., and Nebr.). Field techniques were standardized in all states. CRP fields consisted of either perennial introduced grasses and legumes (CP1) or perennial native grasses (CP2), and the plant species seeded in CRP fields differed within and among the states. Disturbances to CRP fields included mowing (partial or complete), application of herbicides, and burning. The height, vertical density, and canopy coverage of vegetation in CRP fields were measured in each state; values for these measurements were particularly low in Kansas. Mean annual total bird abundance in CRP fields ranged from 4.9 to 29.3 birds/km of transect. The most abundant species on CRP fields differed among states but included red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), grasshopper sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), and dickcissels (Spiza americana). Although the total number of bird species was similar in CRP and rowcrop fields across the region, bird abundance was 1.4-10.5 times greater in the former. Nests of 33 bird species were found in CRP fields compared with only 10 species in rowcrop fields, and the number of nests found was 13.5 times greater in CRP fields. Nest success in CRP fields was 40% overall; predation was the greatest cause of nest failure. Long-term farm set-aside programs that establish perennial grass cover, such as the CRP, seem to provide many benefits for grassland birds, including several species for which conservation is a great concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)864-877
Number of pages14
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Bird abundance
  • Bird nesting
  • CRP fields
  • Cropland
  • Midwest
  • Regional approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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