An evaluation of roadside habitat in northwestern Illinois
Paruk, James D.
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There is growing interest, regarding the beneficial aspects of highway right-of-way (ROW) management for wildlife. Although many researchers have shown increased abundance of wildlife in managed ROW plots, few have examined the importance adjacent habitats may have on the productivity of ROW habitat. Moreover, more studies are needed to determine which species will be benefitted or unaffected by the availability of roadside habitat. Bird censuses, nest searches and small mammal sampling were conducted along Illinois Route 5 (111-5) ROW’S in northwestern Illinois (Whiteside County). Only 9 species of birds were recorded within the 111-5 ROW’S during my 2-year study. Of these, only 1 bird, the Red-winged Blackbird, was abundant. Six bird species nested in the ROW. The Red-winged Blackbird, however, made 92.9% of all bird nests. Thus, the 111-5 ROW in northwestern Illinois was not used by a wide array of birds for foraging or nesting. Small mammals, on the other hand, found these areas attractive. Shrub plantings increased the numerical abundance of birds (primarily Red-winged Blackbirds) using ROW’S, but they did not increase bird species richness. Shrub plots had significantly more nests/acre than grass plots (7.13 vs. 3.11, respectively). Grass plots seeded to brome/alfalfa had significantly more birds than fescue seeded ROW’S, but there was no difference with respect to bird species richness between the two types of gound covers. Ideas for future management and research are suggested.