Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Nebraska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Nebraska Project

Effects of woody encroachment and management on grassland birds in Nebraska’s Sandhills

August 2023 - July 2028


Participating Agencies

  • SSP

Loss of grassland habitat to woody encroachment is widespread and ongoing in Nebraska’s Sandhills. Woody encroachment has been identified as the most severe threat affecting grassland-obligate breeding birds, as these species do not appear to use encroached areas. As grassland bird species are experiencing the sharpest declines of avifauna guilds, evaluations of tolerance levels to woody encroachment of grasslands will provide valuable information to guide conservation and restoration efforts.

Through our research we aim to (1) evaluate the response of grassland birds to eastern red cedar removal, (2) evaluate changes in grassland bird communities and abundance among grassland patches at different stages of successional change, (3) inform best management practices to provide guidance on eastern red cedar removal and management, and (4) develop a monitoring protype to evaluate grassland bird response to woody cover management. We are parting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Presentations Presentation Date
Rusten, R. and S.A. Sonsthagen. 2024. Has Eastern Redcedar Removal Improved Grassland Bird Communities in the Sandhills Ecoregion? The Wildlife Society 31st Annual Conference. Baltimore, MD. October 19-23, 2024. October 2024