Breeding bird communities and habitat selection in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Relationships between the breeding bird populations of the southern Appalachian cove hardwood and mixed oak-pine habitat types were studied during the 1977 and 1978 breeding seasons, in Craig County, Virginia. Relationships between habitat structure and bird utilization for each of the 12 most common breeding species were also investigated.

Bird and habitat data were collected within 100 meter x 50 meter transect areas. Eleven transects were located in the mixed oak-pine habitat and 8 in cove hardwood habitat.

Relative density and species diversity of the 2 bird communities were essentially the same. Species composition was similar; however, relative dominance structures of the 2 communities were different. The blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus) and worm-eating warbler (Helmitheros vermivorus) exhibited a significant preference for the cove hardwood habitat. The ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) exhibited a significant preference for the mixed oak-pine habitat, and the pine warbler (Dendroica pinus) and rufous-sided towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) were observed exclusively in the mixed oak-pine areas.

The relative density of the singing males was significantly greater in 1978 than in 1977.

Multiple discriminant and regression analyses were used to analyze species/habitat associations. Eighty habitat components were considered for inclusion in these analyses. The "best" models derived for each species were presented and all were significant at the 0.05 level. Each species' association with the surrounding forest was best characterized by different combinations of habitat components, suggesting that resource division was adequately described through vegetative community structure. Research needs and potential uses for this type of data in nongame bird management were discussed.