University of New Hampshire
Wildlife & Conservation Biology
Mentor: Dr. Matt Tarr, UNH Cooprative Extension
How Vegetation Composition & Timing Of Haying The Previous Year Influence Bobolink Occurrence In Fields In Southern NH
Bobolinks are grassland-obligate birds whose populations have been declining in New England for the past 80 years due to loss of large field habitat and changes in field management practices. Bobolinks require tall grasses for nesting and they nest directly on the ground under the cover of these grasses between late May and mid-July. Fields must be hayed periodically to keep woody plants from invading and outcompeting the grasses bobolinks require, but fields managed for hay production are typically hayed one or more times during the bobolink nesting season; this haying schedule can destroy bobolink nests and young and cause female bobolinks to stop nesting in a field for one or more years. Best management practices to conserve bobolinks recommend delaying haying until late summer after bobolinks have completed nesting, but this haying schedule can allow woody plants to invade, can reduce the vigor of tall grasses, and ultimately lead to reduced quality of nesting habitat for bobolinks. All previous studies investigating bobolink habitat requirements have been conducted in Vermont and Midwestern states where fields comprise a large proportion of the landscape, but the results of these studies may not be applicable in regions where large fields are uncommon. The goal of my study is to determine how field vegetation composition and timing of haying activities conducted the previous year influence bobolink presence/absence in 60 fields located throughout southeastern New Hampshire, a region where mature forests and suburban development are the dominant landscape features and large fields are uncommon.