Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program:
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources


Effects of Conifer Removal on Songbirds in Sage-Grouse Habitat

September 2019 - September 2024


Participating Agencies

Conifer removal is a core practice in sage-steppe restoration to benefit Elk (Cervus Canadensis) and Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as well as other sagebrush species of management concern. Research to identify the demographic impacts on sagebrush obligate songbirds, as well as conifer-dependent songbird species, is lacking. Demographic impacts of habitat change are particularly poorly known in the sagebrush communities where conifer encroachment is occurring in Montana. Previous studies have focused on sagebrush habitats dominated by stands of Wyoming big sagebrush, and invaded by juniper (Juniperus spp.), while in Montana conifer encroachment is occurring at higher elevations in stands dominated by mountain big sagebrush invaded by Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The latter habitat includes bird species of management concern, including Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri) and Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) in sage habitat, and Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus), Cassin’s Finch (Haemorhous cassinii), and Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga Columbiana) in conifer habitat.