A goal in avian ecology is to understand factors that influence differences in nesting habitat and distribution among species, especially within changing landscapes. Over the past 2 decades, humans have altered sagebrush ecosystems as a result of expansion in energy production and transmission. Our primary study objective was to identify differences in the use of landscape characteristics and natural and anthropogenic features by nesting Common Ravens (Corvus corax) and 3 species of buteo (Swainson's Hawk [Buteo swainsoni], Red-tailed Hawk [B. jamaicensis], and Ferruginous Hawk [B. regalis]) within a sagebrush ecosystem in southeastern Idaho. During 2007–2009, we measured multiple environmental factors associated with 212 nest sites using data collected remotely and in the field. We then developed multinomial models to predict nesting probabilities by each species and predictive response curves based on model-averaged estimates. We found differences among species related to nesting substrate (natural vs. anthropogenic), agriculture, native grassland, and edge (interface of 2 cover types). Most important, ravens had a higher probability of nesting on anthropogenic features (0.80) than the other 3 species (<0.10), and the probability of nesting near agriculture was greatest for ravens (0.55) followed by Swainson's Hawk (0.28). We also describe changes in nesting densities over 4 decades at this site as related to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Since the 1970s, the composition of the raptor and raven nesting community has drastically changed with anthropogenic alterations and loss of continuous stands of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), favoring increased numbers of nesting ravens and fewer nesting Ferruginous Hawks. Our results indicate that habitat alterations, fragmentation, and forthcoming disturbances anticipated with continued energy development in sagebrush steppe ecosystems can lead to predictable changes in raptor and raven communities.
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Vol. 116 • No. 3