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Nesting characteristics of mourning doves in central New Mexico: Response to riparian forest change


  • Associate Editor: Henry Campa III


Riparian forests of the American Southwest are especially prone to changes in composition and structure due to natural and anthropogenic factors. To determine how breeding mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) respond to these changes, we examined nest site use and nest survival in control plots, fuel reduction plots before and after mechanical thinning, and post-wildfire sites. The greatest number of nests (50%) were located in post-wildfire sites where resprouted vegetation and woody debris provided numerous nest sites in the understory. We found fewer nests in post-treatment fuel reduction plots (17%), where most were constructed in cottonwoods, and an intermediate number of nests in control and pre-treatment plots (33%), where most were constructed in exotic plants. The best-supported logistic-exposure nest survival model indicated that survival varied among years and with date. Models containing effects of forest type, study block, and nest site selection received little support, suggesting that survival was constant among plot locations, disturbance types, and nest sites. Our nest survival estimates were low relative to those from other studies, but productivity could offset mortality if adults make numerous nest attempts each year. Our results highlight the utility of woody vegetation and debris as understory nest sites for mourning doves and other riparian birds. Managers should devise methods to preserve or reestablish these nest sites when conducting fuel reduction, exotic vegetation removal, or post-fire restoration activities. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.