We employed a chronosequence approach to evaluate patterns of bird abundance in relation to post-fire vegetation recovery in mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata vaseyana). We estimated population density for 12 species of birds within the perimeters of 4 fires that had undergone 8–20 years of vegetation recovery and on adjacent unburned areas in the northwestern Great Basin, USA. Six species showed negative responses to fire persisting up to 20 years. Two species showed positive responses with effects persisting for <20 years. Understory vegetation was similar between burned and unburned areas irrespective of recovery time, and shrub canopy cover was similar between burned and unburned sites after 20 years of recovery. Persistent reductions in bird densities lead us to conclude that shrub canopy cover alone is not a sufficient metric for predicting recovery of songbird abundances following disturbance in mountain big sagebrush. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.