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Nest-site selection by cavity-nesting birds in relation to postfire salvage logging

Saab, Victoria A.; Russell, Robin E.; Dudley, Jonathan G. 2009. Nest-site selection by cavity-nesting birds in relation to postfire salvage logging. Forest Ecology and Management. 257(1):151-159.

Large wildfire events in coniferous forests of the western United States are often followed by postfire timber harvest. The long-term impacts of postfire timber harvest on fire-associated cavity-nesting bird species are not well documented. We studied nest-site selection by cavity-nesting birds over a 10-year period (1994-2003), representing 1-11 years after fire, on two burns created by mixed severity wildfires in western Idaho, USA. One burn was partially salvaged logged (the Foothills burn), the other was primarily unlogged (the Star Gulch burn). We monitored 1367 nests of six species (Lewis's Woodpecker Melanerpes lewis, Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus, Black-backed Woodpecker P. arcticus, Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana, and Mountain Bluebird S. currucoides). Habitat data at nest and non-nest random locations were characterized at fine (field collected) and coarse (remotely sensed) spatial scales. Nest-site selection for most species was consistently associated with higher snag densities and larger snag diameters, whereas wildfire location (Foothills versus Star Gulch) was secondarily important. All woodpecker species used nest sites with larger diameter snags that were surrounded by higher densities of snags than at non-nest locations. Nests of Hairy Woodpecker and Mountain Bluebird were primarily associated with the unlogged wildfire, whereas nests of Lewis's Woodpecker and Western Bluebird were associated with the partially logged burn in the early years after fire. Nests of wood-probing species (Hairy and Black-backed Woodpeckers) were also located in larger forest patch areas than patches measured at non-nest locations. Our results confirm previous findings that maintaining clumps of large snags in postfire landscapes is necessary for maintaining breeding habitat of cavity-nesting birds. Additionally, appropriately managed salvage logging can create habitat for some species of cavity-nesting birds that prefermore open environments. Our findings can be used by landmangers to develop design criteria for postfire salvage logging that will reserve breeding habitat for cavity-nesting birds.

Keywords: Colaptes auratus, Melanerpes lewis, Picoides spp., salvage logging, Sialia spp., wildfire, woodpeckers

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Nest-site selection by cavity-nesting birds in relation to postfire salvage logging
Electronic Publish Date: January 14, 2009
Last Update:
January 14, 2009

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