Postfledging habitat selection and survival of Henslow’s Sparrow: management implications for a critical life stage

  • June 8, 2020
  • by Aaron C. Young, W. Andrew Cox, John P. McCarty and L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger


Conserving populations of species that rely on rare habitat requires that managers understand which habitat characteristics will best support population growth across multiple life stages. For songbirds, management is most often aimed at nesting adult habitat associations. However, habitat that meets adult requirements may not be similarly suited to requirements for other life stages. Henslow’s Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii) is a tallgrass prairie songbird listed as threatened or endangered in 13 states. We examined survival and habitat selection of Henslow’s Sparrow during the postfledging period. During the nesting seasons in 2015 and 2016, we attached radio transmitters to 46 nestlings in a tallgrass prairie and modeled their survival and habitat selection as a function of habitat characteristics. Thirty-five percent of fledglings survived until two weeks postfledge. Survival was negatively associated with areas of sumac (Rhus copallinum) cover, positively associated with years since last burn, and decreased as the breeding season progressed. Snakes were the most common predator of fledglings. Independent fledglings used habitat that was different than that used by adults and dependent fledglings, with habitat used during the independent period having lower litter cover and increased forb cover compared to points used during the dependent period. During the dependent period, points used by fledglings were a mean distance of 40 m (± 11 SD) from the natal nest. Following independence, points used by fledglings were 236 m (± 89 SD) from the natal nest. Henslow’s Sparrow populations may benefit from removal of encroaching sumac in tallgrass prairie, and from consideration of the varying habitats used by the species during different life stages.