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Small-scale response in an avian community to a large-scale thinning project in the southwestern United States


Bagne, Karen E.; Finch, Deborah M. 2009. Small-scale response in an avian community to a large-scale thinning project in the southwestern United States. In: Rich, T. D.; Arizmendi, C.; Demarest, D.; Thompson, C., eds. Tundra to tropics: Connecting birds, habitats and people; proceedings of the 4th international Partners in Flight conference; February 13-16 2008; McAllen, TX. Partners in Flight: 669-678.

Avian populations were monitored using point counts from 2002 to 2007, two years before and four years after a 2800 ha fuel reduction project. The study area was within a ponderosa pine forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Adjacent unthinned areas were also monitored as a reference for population variation related to other factors. For individual bird species populations, response generally only lasted one or two years and many species had no response despite the alteration of forest structure from greater than 1240 trees ha-1 to approximately 190 trees ha-1. Response varied by species and with time after treatment. For example, Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) populations were consistently lower following treatments, while American Robins (Turdus migratorius) and Townsend's Solitaires (Myadestes townsendi) had lower numbers on treated areas in only one year. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) were more abundant on treated areas in multiple years, while Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus) were more abundant on treated areas in 2007 only. Compiling responses for all species in all time periods, 14 species had positive responses to thinning, five had negative responses, seven had no responses, and one had a mixed response. Additionally, the majority of the analyzed species identified as of regional concern by Partners in Flight in the southern Rocky Mountains had a positive response to thinning. Nesting success varied by year, but we found no consistent pattern between thinned and unthinned areas for open-cup or cavity nests. Positive response to thinning by species of conservation concern along with few negative responses indicates that this type of fuel treatment may be an important tool for bird conservation in this region.

Keywords: abundance, birds, nest success, New Mexico, silviculture, thinning


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Small-scale response in an avian community to a large-scale thinning project in the southwestern United States
Electronic Publish Date: January 26, 2010
Last Update:
January 26, 2010

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