Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Animal Ecology


The bird community of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) hayfields are similar to those found on prairies (grasslands). In Iowa, less than 0.02% of presettlement prairie remains (Smith 1981). Thus of necessity, grassland birds have had to nest in hayfields and other similar habitats to survive (Dinsmore 1981). Birds nesting in crop fields, especially alfalfa hayfields, must cope with a drastically changed environment. Fields are managed to achieve the best possible forage for livestock. Consequently, the needs of nesting birds are usually ignored. Alfalfa production will probably continue to be an integral part of forage production, especially for dairy farmers. In addition, forage producers are increasingly planting new alfalfa cultivars which have resulted in earlier mowing of hay fields in the spring. Thus, it becomes important to understand the ecology of nesting birds in modern alfalfa fields so that consideration can be given to the needs of these birds. My results will increase knowledge of birds nesting in alfalfa fields and will add to the understanding of the relationships between the birds and their environment and of how humans can influence this relationship. In the end, however, I hope that alfalfa producers will gain a new perspective on how their land management decisions affect birds nesting in their fields.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Brian James Frawley



File Format


File Size

101 pages