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How Removal of Invasive Trees Affects Nesting Birds in Riparian Areas

How Removal of Invasive Trees Affects Nesting Birds in Riparian Areas

In central New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande corridor, birds such as the black-chinned hummingbird and the endangered willow flycatcher nest in invasive exotic tree species. This dependency on otherwise undesirable invasives raised concern about removing these exotic trees for wildfire control. Would nesting be harmed? Researchers from the Rocky Mountain Research Station investigated this question at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and the City of Albuquerque. Researchers studied nesting success in areas dominated by native tree species such as willows, areas dominated by invasive species such as tamarisk, sites that burned, those not burned, and those where invasive species had been removed. Results of this ongoing research indicate that when invasive exotic tree species are removed, riparian-nesting birds move into native trees and nest survival rates show little change. If these invasive species are not removed and the woodland burns, these invasives respond positively to fire and may replace native tree species that are important for nesting by woodpeckers and hawks and for a broad range of other species. This research helps managers make better decisions regarding the management of invasive species. Additional research collaborators include the University of Oklahoma and Gila National Forest.

Principal Investigator

Deborah Finch, Rocky Mountain Research Station