Are early successional birds open forest birds?

by

Brice B. Hanberry, Frank R. Thompson, Melissa C. Roach, D. Todd Jones-Farrand, and John M. Kabrick

Research Associate (BBH), Forestry Department, 302 Natural Resources Building, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211; Research Wildlife Biologist (FRT), USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 202 Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211; Graduate Student (MCR), University of Missouri, 302 Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211; Science Coordinator (DTJ), GCPO LCC, 202 Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211; Research Forester (JMK), USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 202 Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211. BBH is corresponding author. To contact, call 573-875-5341 or email hanberryb@missouri.edu.

Abstract – Many bird species of conservation concern in the eastern United States are associated with forest disturbance and often collectively referred to as early successional species. Long-term studies have demonstrated the positive but short term response of many of these species to timber harvest (i.e. prairie warblers, yellow-breasted chats, blue-winged warblers). These studies often suggest a large percentage of the canopy needs to be removed and over a large area, such as by clearcutting, to create suitable habitat. However a growing body of research on restoration of savanna and woodlands, which we term open forests, is demonstrating that these species can be very abundant in landscapes that were historically savannas and woodlands. Open forests are typically restored and managed by prescribed fire and limited overstory thinning. We demonstrate that historical forests predominantly were open forests, with less early successional habitat than currently. We also compare potential landscape level abundances of these bird species in landscapes managed for open forests versus those under traditional even and uneven-aged silvicultural systems.