Survival of chestnut-collared longspurs (Calcarius ornatus) and Baird's sparrow (Centronyx bairdii) on the breeding grounds in southeastern Alberta

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Carey, Hannah
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The grasslands of Alberta have suffered extreme destruction and habitat loss for over 150 years, including destruction that continues from energy industry development. Oil wells that are built through this development have an ongoing impact on wildlife from the physical footprint of the infrastructure and the additional footprint of noise emitted from oil extraction. Chronic noise from oil extraction may impede conspecific communication during the critical post-fledging stage, which may result in lower survival of fledglings and could be a source of population declines. To investigate the effects of oil extraction noise on chestnut-collared longspurs adult (Calcarius ornatus) and fledgling survival, and adult Baird’s sparrow (Centronyx bairdii) survival, I used an experimental design that isolates noise recorded from active oil wells. I used handheld, very high frequency radio-telemetry to track tagged individuals daily. Adult survival for both adult chestnut-collared longspurs and Baird’s sparrow was close to 100% in 2017 and 2018. I found no effect of oil well infrastructure or noise on post-fledging survival of chestnut-collared longspurs. Older, heavier fledglings had a higher likelihood of survival. These results suggest that population declines are not coming from the adult life stage for these species on the breeding grounds of southeastern Alberta. The post-fledging survival results support previous studies that fledgling weight and age are positively corelated with survival. Ongoing research of the full annual cycle of these two species should be prioritized to inform conservation and management decisions.
Songbirds, Post-fledging survival, Radio-telemetry, Oil well noise, Disturbance, Grasslands, Adult survival, Full annual cycle, chestnut-collared longspur, Baird's sparrow