Restoration of Maritime Habitats on a Barrier Island Using the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) as a Flagship Species

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Latshaw, Sarah Ann
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Habitat loss and degradation are major causes of the decline of many songbird species. One species, the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris ) has seen declines of over 60 percent from 1966--1995, according to Breeding Bird Surveys, mostly due to habitat losses. Because of this decline, the Painted Bunting has become high priority by many conservation organizations. Collaborating with the Kiawah Island Conservancy, and several Biologists, we used radio telemetry technology and vegetation sampling techniques to: 1) determine habitat use, 2) identify home range and territory size, and 3) create vegetation recommendations for the Kiawah Island Conservancy. We captured a total of 58 buntings representing all sexes and age classes between May--August 2007--2010, and tracked daily until the transmitter battery failed. Vegetation samples were also taken, measuring ground cover, midstory structure, and canopy cover. Buntings used maritime forest, maritime shrub, and developed land use types at significantly higher rates than the other land use types (F = 65.6, df = 314, p = ≥0.001). The top 10 substrates frequented most often by the buntings from 2007--2010 were: 1) Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), 2) Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera), 3) unknown, 4) Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), 5) Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), 6) Loblolly Pine ( Pinus taeda), 7) Seaside Oxeye (Borrichia frutescens), 8) snag, 9) shrubs, and 10) Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria). Painted Buntings mean home range size (calculated from MCP) was 7.1+/-1.1 ha, and mean territory (calculated from kernel density) was 0.3+/-0.03 ha. Recommendations from our research may not only impact the local bunting population, as well as on other wildlife, they may also have major conservation implications both statewide and regionally by demonstrating the feasibility of homeowner-financed habitat restoration.
Buntings (Birds) -- Habitat -- South Carolina; Restoration ecology; Barrier island ecology