Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 599–605 | Cite as

Frequent use of burned grasslands by the vulnerable Saffron-Cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus: implications for the conservation of the species

Original Article


In the world scenario of declining grassland bird populations, South American species are a particular concern. The Saffron-Cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus is endemic to grasslands in Central and southern South America and its status is vulnerable. Natural history studies stress a number of factors responsible for the decline in its populations. In this paper, we present results from a grassland fire experiment aimed at evaluating the effect of grassland fires on foraging (grasses) and breeding (marshes) habitat use by the Saffron-Cowled Blackbird in a region where fire has been used for centuries as a tool for cattle management. We compare burned grasslands with a control treatment and grasslands within a conservation unit, evaluating uses before and after burning as well as relating bird abundance with environmental characteristics. We found that the Saffron-Cowled Blackbird used the burned treatments more frequently and avoided habitats with tall grasses and developed vegetation. Thus, this species is absent from the conservation unit, which has not experienced fires in nearly three decades. The Saffron-Cowled Blackbird depends on the existence of marshes (breeding habitat) surrounded by short grasses (foraging habitat). In the study region, short grasses are a result of burning practices. As the burning period coincides with the breeding season, the lack of criteria on the part of landowners regarding how to apply and control fire poses a permanent threat to these populations.


Farmland Fire Grassland Habitat structure Marsh 


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of OrnithologyUniversidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, UNISINOSSão LeopoldoBrazil

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