Wildfire and conversion of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) shrublands to cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) grasslands is a serious threat to the shrubsteppe ecosystem, but few studies have documented wildfire's effects on birds with multiple years of pre- and post-fire data. Using data from avian point counts recorded 4 years before and 7 years after a large-scale, severe wildfire in the Columbia Basin of south-central Washington, we found significant effects of fire on population trends or mean abundance of nearly all species investigated. The Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli), a sagebrush obligate, was decreasing at a high rate both pre- and post-fire. Among species inhabiting more open shrubsteppe or grasslands, the mean abundance of three (Grasshopper Sparrow, Ammodramus savannarum; Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta; Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus) was lower post-fire and one (Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus) showed an initial, but short-lived, increase post-fire before dropping below pre-fire levels. Only one (Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris) increased steadily post-fire and had higher post-fire mean abundance. ?? 2009 by The Cooper Ornithological Society. All rights reserved.
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Avian response to wildfire in interior Columbia basin shrubsteppe