Demographic assessments of nesting birds typically focus on failures due to nest predation or brood parasitism. Extreme weather events such as hailstorms, however, can also destroy eggs and injure or kill juvenile and adult birds at the nest. We documented the effects of a severe hailstorm on 3 species of sagebrush-associated songbirds: Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus), Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri), and Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), nesting at eight 24 ha study plots in central Wyoming, USA. Across all plots, 17% of 128 nests failed due to the hailstorm; however, all failed nests were located at a subset of study plots (n = 3) where the hailstorm was most intense, and 45% of all nests failures on those plots were due to hail. Mortality rates varied by species, nest architecture, and nest placement. Nests with more robust architecture and those sited more deeply under the shrub canopy were more likely to survive the hailstorm, suggesting that natural history traits may modulate mortality risk due to hailstorms. While sporadic in nature, hailstorms may represent a significant source of nest failure to songbirds in certain locations, especially with increasing storm frequency and severity forecasted in some regions with ongoing climate change.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Nest mortality of sagebrush songbirds due to a severe hailstorm|
|Series title||Wilson Journal of Ornithology|
|Publisher||Wilson Ornithological Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Seattle|