Avian population densities, habitat use, and foraging ecology in thinned and unthinned hardwood forests in Southwestern Virginia
Garrison, Barrett A.
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I examined impacts of thinning on bird population densities and habitat use in Appalachian mixed-hardwood forests during 1984 and 1985 at three thinned and three unthinned stands in the Jefferson National Forest, southwestern Virginia. Densities of shrubs, saplings, trees, and snags, canopy and ground cover, and foliage volume were the structural variables most influenced by thinning. Populations of shrub/understory birds were higher in thinned stands than unthinned stands. Canopy-dwelling species showed variable population responses to thinning. Habitat use similarities were used to group 13 bird species into three categories: (1) shrub/conifer species included the tufted titmouse, blue-gray gnatcatcher, wood thrush, ovenbird, and hooded warbler, (2) generalist species included the eastern wood-pewee, red-eyed vireo, black-and-white warbler, and scarlet tanager, and (3) mature/deciduous species included the white-breasted nuthatch, solitary vireo, blackburnian warbler, and worm-eating warbler. Shrub, snag, and conifer density and ground cover were the four habitat variables most important in separating used from unused sites. Foraging behavior and resource use of seven bird species were examined in two thinned and two unthinned stands. No differences in foraging methods or niche breadth were found between the stands for all species. Differences in foraging and tree heights were due to tree height differences between the stands. For most species, foraging resource use was equal to availability. Short, small diameter trees were rarely used. Oaks were used most often, and red maple and conifers were rarely used for foraging. The opportunistic nature of avian foraging behavior and the vegetative differences between thinned and unthinned stands led to the foraging differences noted.
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