Understanding the role of green space in urban—suburban landscapes is becoming critical for bird conservation because of rampant habitat loss and conversion. Although not natural habitat, golf courses could play a role in bird conservation if they support breeding populations of some native species, yet scientists remain skeptical. In 2003–2009, we measured reproduction of Eastern Bluebirds (Siala sialis) in Virginia on golf courses and surrounding reference habitats, of the type that would have been present had golf courses not been developed on these sites (e.g., recreational parks, cemeteries, agriculture land, and college campus). We monitored >650 nest boxes and 2,255 nest attempts (n = 1,363 golf course, n = 892 reference site). We used an information-theoretic modeling approach to evaluate whether conditions on golf courses affected timing of breeding, investment, or nest productivity compared with nearby reference sites. We found that Eastern Bluebirds breeding on golf courses reproduced as well as those breeding in other disturbed habitats. Habitat type had no effect on initial reproductive investment, including date of clutch initiation or clutch size ( = 4 eggs). During incubation and hatching, eggs in nests on golf courses had higher hatching rates (80%) and brood sizes ( = 4.0 nestlings brood-1) than nests on reference sites (75% hatching rate; = 3.8 nestlings brood-1). Mortality of older nestlings was also lower on golf courses and, on average, golf course nests produced 0.3 more fledglings than nests on reference sites. Thus, within a matrix of human-dominated habitats, golf courses may support productive populations of some avian species that can tolerate moderate levels of disturbance, like Eastern Bluebirds.
Vol. 128 • No. 3
Vol. 128 • No. 3