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

Wyoming Project

Influence of Energy Development on Non-Game Sagebrush Birds

May 2008 - December 2010


Participating Agencies

  • Wyoming Game and Fish Department
  • U. S. Geological Survey

Several sagebrush steppe-obligate songbirds are declining range-wide (according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey) and are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Wyoming Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS), including the Brewer's sparrow (Spizella breweri), sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli) and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus). Population declines have primarily been attributed to habitat alteration and loss on breeding grounds. One land use that has become particularly prevalent in Wyoming is the development of sagebrush steppe for energy extraction including oil and natural gas. The use and alteration of sagebrush habitats for energy development and extraction has largely unknown consequesnces for wildlife populations, though such disturbances have the potential to disrupt nesting, alter habitat selection, increase physiological stress and reduce survival and reproduction. Research examining the potential impacts of different types and stages of energy development in Wyoming on sagebrush songbird breeding communitites is therefore critically needed. We propose to evaluate songbird community structure (abundance, diversity) and reproductive success across chronosequences (age since development) of energy disturbances and gradients in development intensity (well pad density) in southwestern Wyoming. Additional important fitness components such as clutch size, hatching success and nestling quality (eg., mass) will also be evaluated. Focal species will include the three sagebrush obligates mentioned above, as well as vesper sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus) and green-tailed towhees (Pipilo chlorurus).

Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Gilbert, Michelle M., Demographic responses of sagebrush-obligate songbirds to oil and natural gas development in western Wyoming. M.S., Department of Zoology and Physiology, December 2010. December 2010