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Bird Habitat Project
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Landscape management for multiple grassland bird guilds of conservation concern

 Chicks in nest Five bird eggs in nest

Within Thunder Basin, sagebrush and grassland habitats are interwoven at fine spatial scales (100s of meters). Sagebrush steppe areas currently provide habitat for sagebrush obligate species such as Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri), Sage Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis), and Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus). At the same time and in very close proximity, mixed-grass prairie areas provide habitat for Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), McCown's longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii), and Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis). In this complex landscape, it is unclear how management for different habitat types should be spatially optimized in order to achieve multiple, potentially conflicting conservation objectives.

In 2015 we began monitoring the distribution and abundance of sagebrush- and grassland-associated bird species to better understand habitat requirements and spatial overlaps in habitat use of multiple different species.  This work is being done in collaboration with the US Forest Service, private land owners, and Jeff Beck at the University of Wyoming  and the UW Agricultural Experiment Station as part of the Thunder Basin Research Initiative. Using point counts and surveying techniques designed to maximize detection we are developing multi-scale habitat models that predict occupancy probability or abundance based on plant community composition, vegetation structure, and landscape variables  (distance to different habitat types, landscape configuration, soils, topography , historical legacies, grazing and fire management).  This work will aid in maximizing avian conservation while also continuing to manage for black tailed prairie dog core areas, which have been prioritized for reintroduction of the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes).

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