Landscape Scale Habitat Associations of Sprague's Pipit (Anthus Spragueii) Overwintering in the Southern United States
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Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii) is a North American endemic migratory grassland songbird that has experienced a substantial population decline over the last half-century. There has been very limited research done on Sprague’s Pipit especially on their wintering grounds. There is no complete account of their historic wintering range and there is also limited knowledge about the status of their current wintering range in the United States and Mexico. On the breeding range, Sprague’s Pipits seem very selective in their habitat use, although there are reports that there may be a broader use of habitats on the wintering grounds. My objective was to determine the habitat types that Sprague’s Pipits associate with at the landscape scale. I used land cover data from the National Land Cover Database GIS layers, CropScape GIS layer and pipit point locations retrieved from eBird. I examined landscape-scale (1, 2 and 5 km) habitat associations of Sprague’s Pipit over wintering in areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. I then compared these habitat associations to those of random locations and to locations of the closely related American Pipit. I found that Sprague’s Pipit locations had minimum canopy cover and lower percent cover of woody vegetation and certain agriculture land cover types. I also found that although Sprague’s Pipit is known to be negatively affected by non-native and anthropogenic grasslands at fine spatial scales, these grassland types may be suitable for the species at the landscape scale. Sprague’s Pipit also appeared to be much less of a habitat generalist than the more common American Pipit. The results of my study could potentially be used in landscape-level planning for the conservation of the species on its wintering grounds.