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Daily nest survival rates of Gunnison Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus minimus): assessing local- and landscape-scale drivers

January 1, 2015

The Gunnison Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of conservation concern and is a candidate for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of substantial declines in populations from historic levels. It is thought that loss, fragmentation, and deterioration of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitat have contributed to the decline and isolation of this species into seven geographically distinct subpopulations. Nest survival is known to be a primary driver of demography of Greater Sage-Grouse (C. urophasianus), but no unbiased estimates of daily nest survival rates (hereafter nest survival) exist for Gunnison Sage-Grouse or published studies identifying factors that influence nest survival. We estimated nest survival of Gunnison Sage-Grouse for the western portion of Colorado's Gunnison Basin subpopulation, and assessed the effects and relative importance of local- and landscape-scale habitat characteristics on nest survival. Our top performing model was one that allowed variation in nest survival among areas, suggesting a larger landscape-area effect. Overall nest success during a 38-day nesting period (egg-laying plus incubation) was 50% (daily survival rate; SE  =  0.982 [0.003]), which is higher than previous estimates for Gunnison Sage-Grouse and generally higher than published for the closely related Greater Sage-Grouse. We did not find strong evidence that local-scale habitat variables were better predictors of nest survival than landscape-scale predictors, nor did we find strong evidence that any of the habitat variables we measured were good predictors of nest survival. Nest success of Gunnison Sage-Grouse in the western portion of the Gunnison Basin was higher than previously believed.