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Agricultural ecology, Habitat (Ecology) -- United States -- States, Bird populations -- Estimates


State-level Breeding Bird Survey (1980-1998) and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics were used to test the hypothesis that changes in agricultural land use within the eastern and central U.S. have driven population trends of grassland and shrub habitat birds over the past two decades. The degree to which population trends differed between grassland and shrub habitats was evaluated with respect to migratory and nesting behavior. Grassland birds declined significantly between 1980 and 1999, but, on average, shrub habitat species did not. Grassland-breeding, long-distance migrants exhibited the strongest negative trends. Most species (78%; n = 63) exhibited at least one significant association between population trends and changes in agricultural land use, and in most, land use "explained" 25-30% of the variation in population trends among states. Changes in the farmland landscape accounted for more of the interstate variability of population trends of short-distance migrants than of both long-distance migrants and residents, and that variability was greater in grassland than shrub species. Declines in the area of rangeland and cover crops were followed by population declines and increases, respectively, by many species. Increases of land in the Conservation Reserve Program had negative associations with population trends of some shrub species. The results indicate that grassland birds have declined strongly over the past two decades, and that regardless of migratory behavior or nesting habits, avian population trends are linked strongly to changes in agricultural land use within North America.


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