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Keywords:

  • birds;
  • canopy gap;
  • canopy openness;
  • clearcut;
  • density;
  • forest structure;
  • nest survival;
  • Ohio

Abstract

Managing for forest wildlife requires attention not only to quantity but quality of forests within the landscape. We examined the extent to which local structural attributes and landscape context of forest stands explained variation in density and reproductive success of mature forest birds across 12 sites in southeast Ohio, USA, 2004–2006. Results suggest that several structural characteristics influenced bird–habitat relationships in our study. Densities of 3 songbird species (i.e., ovenbird [Seiurus aurocapilla], cerulean warbler [Setophaga cerulea], and scarlet tanager [Piranga olivacea]) were positively related to canopy openness, which is usually a function of canopy gaps. Habitat attributes described by ground litter, understory density, and canopy height were positively associated with densities of ground (i.e., worm-eating warbler [Helmitheros vermivorum]), or shrub nesting species (i.e., Kentucky and hooded warblers [Geothlypis formosa and Setophaga citrina], respectively). Furthermore, the number of small trees likely drove the positive relationship between density of wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), a subcanopy nester. After accounting for temporal variability in daily nest survival rates, the odds of nest survival for all species increased 10.5% for every 1% increase in canopy openness and decreased 1.4% for each 5% increase in understory vegetation density. Habitat–nest survival relationships were not apparent at the level of the individual species. Our results suggest that structural attributes produced by increasing habitat heterogeneity may be necessary for conservation of forest bird communities. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.