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Kemper, Charles A. (ed.) / The passenger pigeon
Volume 45, No. 4 (Winter 1983)

Tyser, Robin W.
Species-area relations of cattail marsh avifauna,   pp. 125-128 PDF (1.3 MB)


Page 125


Species-Area Relations of
Cattail Marsh Avifauna
by Robin W. Tyser
One can visualize isolated, disjunct habitats as being rather "island-like"
to
their animal inhabitants. Howe and Jones (1977), Robbins (1979), Whit-
comb et al. (1981), Ambuel and Temple (1983) and others have viewed pat-
ches of deciduous forests in this manner and have showed several distinctive
relationships between the sizes of forest "islands" and the kinds
and
numbers of their avian residents. During a survey of wetland birds in the
LaCrosse area (Tyser, 1982) I became interested in bird communities of dif-
ferently sized wetland habitat islands. In particular I decided to focus
on
cattail marshes and how total species number and the presence of specific
species was correlated with marsh size. To my knowledge, species-area
studies of wetland habitats in general have received little attention.
METHODS
I visited nine marsh study sites within 65 kilometers of LaCrosse, WI bet-
ween 27 May - 11 June 1981. Each site was located within the Mississippi
River flood plain, and six of the marshes (Tl, T2, T3, T4, T5 and T6) were
located in the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge near Trempealeau,
WI. Each site consisted of "marsh" (=persistant emergent) vegetation
dominated by cattails (primarily (Typha latifolia) interspersed with other
wetland vegetation such as Scirpus, Sparganium, Alnus. Marsh vegetation
at each site was bordered by both open water and upland vegetation and in
one case (the BP marsh) also by a highway atop a prominent elevated
roadbed. I used aerial photographs to measure surface coverage of marsh
vegetation. By early June the largest marsh (T5) was loosely interconnected
by emergent vegetation to several smaller patches of adjacent cattails. I
decided to include these patches as part of the main marsh if they were
separated by less than 20 meters from the main body of cattails.
I visited each marsh once during each of three 3-4 day periods (May 27-29,
June 1-4, June 8-11) on foot or by canoe between 0.5 hr preceding to 4.0
hr
following sunrise. Nest locations and hence the breeding status of birds
observed in marshes were not determined because of unstable "floating",
essentially impassable, substrates in some of the marsh study sites. Within
each site, I recorded all observations (visual and auditory) of species detected
within marsh vegetation. I supplemented visual observations by attempting
to
elicit vocal responses of rails: Virginia (Rallus limicula), King (R. elegans),
Black (Laterallus jamaicensis), and Sora (Porzana carolina) to playbacks
of
tape records broadcast at about 15 minute intervals. Recordings were taken
from the Peterson records of western and eastern bird songs (Houghton Mif-
flin Co.). I did not consider individuals observed only in non-herbaceous
vegetation (shrubs, trees), egrets and herons wading in open water adjacent
to
marsh vegetation, and aerial foragers (swallows and swifts).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Individual Red-wings (Agelaius phoeniceus) and all Song Sparrows
(Melospiza melodia) observed occupied territories along marsh edges which
extended into non-marsh vegetation. With the exceptions of these two
species, marsh vegetation borders appeared to represent functional habitat
125


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