Abundance and Habitat Associations of Winter and Spring Birds on a Reclaimed Surface Mine (The Wilds) in Ohio, USA


  • Danny J. Ingold Biology Department, Muskingum University




reclaimed surface mine, winter, grassland birds, cool-season grass, switchgrass


Several studies have examined how grassland birds use reclaimed surface mines during the breeding season, but few studies have documented how these birds use these areas during the winter and early spring months. Using point counts, birds occupying a reclaimed surface-mine site in southeastern Ohio were surveyed from late December 2020 to April 2021. The primary objective was to document bird abundance and species richness across a temporal gradient spanning from late December 2020 through April 2021. Additionally, bird species composition was examined in habitat patches dominated by cool-season plants and in a single warm-season plot dominated by switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). A total of 1,452 bird sightings were made consisting of 40 species in 7 orders. Songbirds (order Passeriformes) comprised 60% of all sightings, and most of these (53%) were Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna), and Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Thirty-nine species were observed on cool-season sites versus 13 species in the switchgrass plot. Species including returning Eastern Meadowlarks, Henslow's Sparrows (Centronyx henslowii), and Field Sparrows (Spizella pusilla) were common on the cool-season plots, but uncommon or absent in the switchgrass plot. Conversely, the switchgrass plot had more wintering American Tree Sparrows (Spizelloides arborea) and returning Swamp Sparrows (Melospiza georgiana). Return rates of long-distance migratory species fell within the time frames for these species as obtained from previous studies in this region. The diverse habitat structure of the cool-season portions of this study site attracted some winter species, including birds of prey, as well as several returning migratory species.