Intermountain Grassland Songbird Research Update

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Intermountain Grassland Songbird Research Update

December 22, 2021

Grassland species are among the most imperiled birds in North America due to widespread habitat loss. In the intermountain west, the limited grassland that remains is degraded by historic management and threatened by human development. MPG Ranch has put significant effort into conserving and restoring grasslands to improve ecosystem function for grassland flora and fauna. In 2020, the University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab conducted a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of studying songbird reproductive success in managed grasslands on MPG Ranch. In 2021, we expanded our field effort and focused nest monitoring on the three most abundant bird species found the previous year: grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), and vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus). We found 109 nests across three habitat management categories (native range, exotic forage grass replacement, and exotic forage grass diversification). Nesting density and reproductive success was higher in diversification areas than in native and replacement areas. Additional years of data will improve accuracy of estimates and permit more detailed analyses of species-specific nesting preferences, providing insight into how restoration strategies influence grassland songbird nesting.

Previous Research Update

Fall 2021 Motus Update