WSO Convention 2012 – Academic Oral Presentations
Wisconsin Society for Ornithology
2012 Convention Academic Oral Presentations
15 minutes presentations, with 5 minutes for questions
An Assessment of Nest Preference in the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Presenter: Faye Lorenzsonn, UW-Madison senior in zoology under mentorship of Professors Jim Berkelman and David Drake in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology. Works as research assistant at National Wildlife Health Institute, has bird rehabilitation experience through The Raptor Center in St. Paul, and aspires to become a veterinarian.
Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus), like all owl species, do not build their own nests but make use of and are constrained by pre-existing structures available in their territory (Johnsgard, 1988). In Wisconsin, Great Horned Owls most commonly utilize Red-tailed Hawk nests (Petersen, 1979), but it has been suggested that prior to widespread logging, use of tree cavities was prevalent (Bendire, 1892). Although previous studies examined Great Horned Owl nest sites, without comparing their nests with unused nests available at the time of selection, the selection criteria remain ambiguous (Marks, 2001). To assess whether a preference exists for open nests or cavity nests, I have implemented a preference test using an artificial Red-tailed Hawk nest commonly prescribed for Great Horned Owl management and a nest box of my design. Through auditory surveys I located five owl pairs residing in the Madison area, and provisioned each pair with both an open nest and a box nest. The nests were erected within 100 yards of each other in favorable habitat, controlling for extraneous variables in placement. When brooding is underway in early spring, I will observe whether either of the artificial nests was selected. If neither is occupied, I will survey the area to determine if a natural nest is in use. The results will be analyzed to find the importance of nest type in site selection. This experiment may lead to practical management applications, such as strategic placement of optimal owl nests to discourage takeover of peregrine nests.
Nocturnal activity of nesting shrubland and grassland passerines
Carolyn M. Schmitz(2) (presenter), Christy M. Slay(1), Kevin S. Ellison(2), Christine A. Ribic(2) and Kimberly G. Smith(1) . Carolyn is currently working on a master’s degree at UW-Madison studying grassland bird nesting ecology with Prof. Christine Ribic.
1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701
2: Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, UW-Madison, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
Nocturnal behaviors and sleep patterns of nesting passerines remain largely un-documented in the field and are important to understanding responses to environmental pressures such as predation. We used nocturnal video recordings to describe activity and quantify behaviors of females with nestlings of four shrubland bird species and three grassland bird species (n = 19 nests). Among the shrubland birds, Blue-winged Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and Indigo Bunting returned to the nest for the night at the same time, around sunset. Among the grassland birds, Eastern Meadowlark returned the earliest before sunset and Grasshopper Sparrow retuned the latest after sunset. All species exhibited “back sleep” with the bill tucked under scapular feathers and individuals awoke frequently for vigils or “peeks” at their surroundings. Sleep of all species was disrupted by nestling activity. Average duration of sleep bouts varied from 6 min (Grasshopper Sparrow) to 28 min (Blue-winged Warbler, Field Sparrow). Mean overnight duration on the nest varied from 6.4 hr (Field Sparrow) to 8.8 hr (Indigo Bunting). On average, adults woke in the morning (the last waking before departing the nest) 20–30 min before sunrise. The first absence from the nest in the morning was short for all species and nestlings were fed within 12 min of a parent’s departure. Our study highlights the need for further video research on sleep patterns of nesting birds in the field to better understand basic natural history, energetic cost-benefits of sleep, and behavioral adaptations to environmental pressures.
From Muck Farm to Marsh – Habitat Restoration at Zeloski Marsh in Jefferson County
Authors: Mark Martin; Goose Pond Sanctuary Manager, Madison Audubon Society (presenter); Charles Kilian, Wildlife Biologist, WDNR
In 2003, the Natural Resource Conservation Service purchased a Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) easement on 1,596 acres of farmed wetlands, with muck soils, that were owned by the Dennis Zeloski family. Later that year, Madison Audubon Society acquired 1,496 acres of the Zeloski Marsh in Jefferson County using Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funding. In 2006, over $600,000 was spent restoring wetlands and grasslands. Wetland restoration included filling ditches, removing pump houses, capping wells, constructing berms, seeding, and placing water control structures. Grassland restoration involved constructing islands and planting wet-mesic, mesic, and dry-mesic prairie species. After the restoration work was completed, 1,461 acres were donated to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and became part of the Lake Mills State Wildlife Area. The Department of Transportation also purchased and restored an adjacent 209 acres as a wetland mitigation bank. The Rock River Coalition coordinates wildlife and water quality monitoring efforts. Impressive numbers of many wetland species have been documented. The bird list contains 213 species. To maintain wildlife viewing opportunities and high use by migrating birds, the DNR instituted new hunting rules in 2010 that closed migratory bird hunting at 1 p.m. from Sept. 1 through mid-October. Habitat management includes extensive prescribed burning and mowing to reduce brush encroachment and invasive species..
Early bird gets earlier: Shifts in migration phenology of early-spring migrants in the Midwest
Benjamin Zuckerberg(1) (presenter), Gavin M. Jones(1) and Andy Paulios(2); Ben is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at UW–Madison. His research addresses how forces of climate and land use change affect avian behavior, abundance, and distribution. He focuses on the use of citizen science to test ecological hypotheses at multiple scales ranging from local studies to national analyses.
1Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, UW-Madison, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
2Bureau of Wildlife Management, WDNR, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, WI 53707
The timing of many springtime events throughout the world are shifting due to climate change, and this global-scale phenomenon is also happening on a smaller scale in the state of Wisconsin and across the Midwest. Springtime migration for birds that overwinter in temperate regions throughout the world has been linked to climatic cues such as winter temperature. Using data from Project Feederwatch, an extensive citizen science program focused on wintering birds, we quantified the timing of spring arrival for a number of common early spring migrants over a twenty-year period (1990-2010). Earlier arrivals were observed among species, including a ~13 day shift since 1990 for the arrival of American Robins (Turdus migratorius), the iconic harbinger of spring. Additionally, annual variation in statewide minimum winter temperature was significantly related to first arrival date, showing support for the influence of this particular climatic cue. The burgeoning interest in citizen science over recent decades and the development of user-friendly tools for online data entry has allowed for the analyses of phenological events at unprecedented scales. The continued contribution of volunteers in Wisconsin and the Midwest to programs such as Project FeederWatch and eBird will help scientists better predict the effects of climate change on avian community and distribution.
History of Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary
Authors: Mark Martin; Goose Pond Sanctuary Manager, Madison Audubon Society (presenter); Susan Foote-Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary Manager, Madison Audubon Society
Goose Pond is a prairie wetland in the middle of the Arlington (Empire) Prairie in south central Columbia County. Madison Audubon Society (MAS) acquired 60 acres at Goose Pond in 1967 after an unsuccessful attempt by the previous owner to establish a waterfowl refuge. MAS wanted to provide a refuge for waterfowl and also a place for bird watchers. The Goose Pond bird checklist is at 252 species. In 1978, 40 acres were acquired. Since 1992, eight parcels (560 acres) were acquired using and Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants, several large donations, and many small donations. Four hundred acres have been restored to tallgrass prairie along with 20 acres of wetlands. Resident managers, summer interns, volunteers, and contractors conduct habitat management. Wildlife surveys are conducted to document changes in wildlife populations. There have been two major threats to the sanctuary. A 40 million gallon ethanol plant was stopped and a 116 acre parcel zoned for 168 homes was acquired. Future plans include restoring early blooming and rare prairie species, introducing conservative prairie invertebrates, removing invasive species, restoring a small oak savanna, planting shrub units and winter food plots, and increasing the endowment fund.
WeBIRD: A smartphone application that automatically identifies birds by their vocalizations
Presenter: Dr. Mark E. Berres, assistant professor of avian biology in Department of Animal Sciences, UW-Madison. Research interests include population genetic consequences of rarity and genomic approaches to enhance disease resistance and productivity in poultry. He is the instructor for numerous courses at UW-Madison including Ornithology, Birds of Southern Wisconsin and Avian Physiology.
Bird watching is extremely popular in Wisconsin. Yet learning to identify birds is difficult for most. Less than 20 species can be identified visually by a majority of birders; the number by sound alone is much less. WeBIRD, the Wisconsin Electronic Bird Identification Resource Database, is a software tool that that uses species-specific audio patterns – fingerprints – to automatically identify birds by their vocalizations. Access to WeBIRD is made through a wireless-enabled smartphone. A user records a vocalization which is transmitted to a remote computer for identification. If a positive match is found in the database, the AOU ID is transmitted back to the smartphone and the species is identified with imagery and text. Detailed descriptions, range maps, and additional audio or imagery is also made accessible from a pre-loaded database residing on the smartphone. The WeBIRD interface has been designed with simplicity in mind, requiring only a small amount of effort for any user to make full use of its capabilities. The target audience of WeBIRD is broad, ranging from amateur bird watchers, educators, and natural resource organizations to professional researchers. I expect this tool will enrich the experiences of even casual bird watchers, expanding an enthusiasm for birding. Thus, WeBIRD is also capable of playing an important role in the growing field of citizen science which requires accurate species identification. This better serves scientists and increases awareness among participants of the pressures facing birds and bird habitats and translates into increased economic output that helps sustain local economies.
Wisconsin Society for Ornithology
2012 Convention Academic Poster Presentations
Authors will be available for discussion of their work during Saturday’s Social Hour, beginning at 5:45 p.m.
Circadian rhythm in nesting male and female Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Authors: Carolyn Schmitz(1) (presenter), Andrew Cassini(2), Christine Ribic(3) ; Carolyn and Andrew are graduate students at UW-Madison
1: Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, UW-Madison, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
2: Department of Zoology, UW-Madison, 250 N. Mills St., Madison, WI 53706
3: US Geological Survey Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
Little research has been conducted on the circadian rhythms of breeding passerines. This study investigates circadian rhythm in male and female Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) during the nesting cycle using remote infrared video cameras. Our objectives are to examine changes in feeding rate frequency and brooding time for males and females as nestlings age, to evaluate Bobolink nesting behavior for the presence of circadian rhythm patterns, and to confirm basic nesting behavior that has been described in the literature. Video footage used in this study was collected as part of a larger study investigating grassland bird nesting ecology in warm season grass fields enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in Southwest Wisconsin. Observational data will be collected by continuously recording the activities of male and female Bobolinks during a 24 hour sample period. Observers will record the times of the following events: the arrival and departure of adults, all feedings, and the duration of brooding and sleeping bouts. This is ongoing research; preliminary results will be presented. As the chicks age, feeding trips are expected to increase, while brooding bouts decrease. Feeding activities are expected to peak shortly after dawn and again just before dusk. Understanding Bobolink nesting patterns will provide important baseline biological information for this species.
Genetic assessment of population decline and translocation in Wisconsin sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus)
Authors: Kristen Malone, Central Michigan University (presenter); Scott D. Hull, WDNR; Bradley J. Swanson, Central Michigan University
Kristen is a Master of Science in Conservation Biology candidate at Central Michigan University. She also is the manager of the Applied Technology in Conservation Genetics Laboratory at Central Michigan University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Missouri. Her main research interests include using genetic methods to contribute to the conservation of wildlife.
Loss of genetic diversity is a major factor in extinction for small populations. Populations with high levels of genetic diversity are less likely to suffer the effects of inbreeding resulting from isolation and small population size. The sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) population in Wisconsin (WI), U.S.A has experienced a 50% decline since 1991. Because this population consists of several small, isolated subpopulations, inbreeding was identified as a possible threat to its persistence. We used 8 microsatellite loci to analyze genetic variation and gene flow in the WI subpopulations, as well as a contiguous population that spans throughout Nebraska, North and South Dakota, U.S.A, and which is considered demographically healthy. The WI subpopulations had lower allelic diversity (A=3.3), lower heterozygosity (H=0.34), and higher inbreeding (FIS=0.412) than the contiguous population (A=8.0; H=0.75; FIS=0.185). FST values were high in WI (0.25) compared to the contiguous populations (0.002), indicating relatively low levels of gene flow among WI subpopulations. We conclude that Wisconsin’s sharp-tailed grouse population is suffering from a lack of genetic diversity and reduced interpopulation dispersal that is not typical for this species. During spring of 2010 and 2011, 30 sharp-tailed grouse hens were translocated between WI subpopulations with the goal of increasing gene flow and reducing inbreeding. The next step for this project is to analyze inbreeding post-translocation to assess the efficacy of translocation as a management tool for Wisconsin’s current sharp-tailed grouse population.