Effects of shallow gas development on relative abundances of grassland songbirds in a mixed-grass prairie
Rodgers, Jennifer Anne
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Grassland bird species have declined more than birds of any other region in North America, and industrial development may exert additional pressure on these species. I evaluated the effects of natural gas infrastructure on the relative abundances of grassland songbirds in southeastern Alberta, Canada using point counts at sites with well densities ranging from 0 to 20 per 1×1 mile. Generalized Linear Mixed Models were used to evaluate effects of infrastructure on birds, and parsimonious models were selected using Akaike’s Information Criterion. Vegetation near infrastructure was shorter and sparser than locations farther away, but was unlikely to have driven responses to infrastructure by birds. Gas wells may have acted as “artificial shrubs” attracting species such as vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) and western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) that use vegetation for perching, while other species, such as Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii) and chestnut-collared longspur (Calcarius ornatus), had higher abundances farther from wells.