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Individual Highlight

Enhancing Songbird Populations in Eastern Forests with Forest Management

Photo of Wood thrush nests were monitored to gauge reproduction on managed forests. Melanie Klein, University of Massachusetts Amherst.Wood thrush nests were monitored to gauge reproduction on managed forests. Melanie Klein, University of Massachusetts Amherst.Snapshot : Many forest bird populations are declining. Can forestry actually enhance habitat quality for these species? Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station conduct a study to answer this question.

Principal Investigators(s) :
King, David 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 967


Songbirds are a source of enjoyment for millions of bird watchers. According to one recent estimate, bird-oriented recreation generates $85 billion of economic activity annually. Populations of many species are declining, and some of these declines are likely due to recent changes in the condition of our forests. Historically eastern forests consisted of a mosaic of old growth stands interspersed with shrubby openings caused by natural and anthropogenic disturbances such as blowdown, beavers, and fire. Following colonization, the structural diversity characteristic of these early stands was lost as old growth forests were replaced by secondary forests more resistant to blowdown, and the influence of other natural disturbance agents was restricted. Bird diversity increases with structural diversity, and some species require particular structural features like advanced regeneration or canopy gaps to nest and rear their young. One such species is the wood thrush, a forest-nesting songbird whose population has declined by over 50 percent in the past few decades. Scientists explored the extent to which silviculture could enhance wood thrush habitat in a study in central Massachusetts and found that wood thrushes were more abundant and nested successfully in managed forests, and that fledglings selected structurally diverse habitats created by forestry.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst

Program Areas