Significant effects of season and bird age on use of coppice woodland by songbirds



Woodland birds have experienced widespread population declines across Europe, resulting partly from a decrease in management practices such as coppicing. Increasing fuelwood demand may reverse the decline of coppicing, making it timely to attempt a fuller understanding of its effects. Here, the impact of coppicing on year-round habitat use by adults and juveniles of 16 songbird species was quantified from a quasi-experimental study over 32 years (1978–2009) in Treswell Wood, Nottinghamshire, UK. Habitat use was inferred using capture rates from more than 10 000 h of mist-netting (> 25 000 captures) and detailed information on coppicing. Capture rates varied with coppice age in different ways: (1) increases as coppice aged (e.g. Marsh Tit Poecile palustris, juvenile Eurasian Treecreepers Certhia familiaris); (2) declines as coppice aged (e.g. Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus, Great Tit Parus major); (3) peaks in capture rates at intermediate coppice age (i.e. 5–15 years) (e.g. Garden Warbler Sylvia borin, Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, adult Treecreepers); and (4) a peak at intermediate ages, followed by a decline, before an increase in use again at the oldest coppice ages (i.e. > 20 years) (e.g. Common Blackbird Turdus merula, Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula). Responses to coppice age were similar in different seasons, although Willow Tits Poecile montana showed little preference during breeding but avoided older coppice at other times. Juveniles and adults often differed in their responses to coppice age. The analyses reveal patterns in habitat use that are relevant to woodland management and conservation policy. They suggest that a mosaic of age structures in woodland is beneficial to a wide range of woodland species, and that management should consider the requirements of all age-classes of birds at different times of year.