San Clemente Island Bell’s (Sage) Sparrow

Since late 2012, I have been working for the Institute for Wildlife Studies on the San Clemente Bell’s Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli clementeae; formerly known as the Sage Sparrow) in California.

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The San Clemente Bell’s sparrow is a federally threatened subspecies endemic to San Clemente Island, California.  This species is non-migratory, but the population declined in the last half of the 20th century due to destruction of native shrub cover by introduced goats and other ungulates.   Removal of the goats and subsequent reestablishment of native vegetation has been accompanied by San Clemente Bell’s sparrow breeding range expansion into areas and vegetation types that previously were not available or were considered unsuitable.

My study examines the Bell’s sparrow distribution during the breeding season, monitors their nesting success, and describes their habitat use across the island.

In addition, the project also studied the Bell’s sparrow distribution, habitat use, and behavior during the non-breeding season.  Because this species does not migrate, and no other Bell’s sparrow subspecies overwinter on SCI, we have a rare opportunity to see how a population uses the island during the winter, how frequently the sparrows form groups, and how far individuals move.  We presented a poster of our results at the 2016 Western Section of the Wildlife Society – Munoz_etal_BESP-NBBehavior.

We have not yet published results from our research, but have summarized results each year in technical reports to the Navy (see Technical Reports section of Publications page).

As a side effect of the investigations we have conducted into the interaction of Bell’s sparrows with the vegetation on San Clemente Island, we developed a field guide to assist in identification of the plants that grow there.  Copies of A Field Guide to the Plants of San Clemente Island are available on request (email: smeiman AT susanmeiman.org).