Effects of small-scale habitat disturbance on the ecology of breeding birds in a Vermont (USA) hardwood forest


  • present address of RAL Harvard Univ, Harvard Forest, PO Box 68, Petersham, MA 01366-0068, USA and Biology Dept, Amherst Coll, Amherst, MA 01002, USA


We studied territory placement and foraging behavior of breeding birds in relation to juxtaposition of forest vegetation and logged patches in southern Vermont, USA Different bird species used disturbed vegetation at differing spatial scales, depending on temtory size Four species Dendroica pensylvamca. Geothlypis trichas, Zonotrichia albicollis, Oporornis Philadelphia showed strong clumping of their small (< 0 5 ha) territories in logged patches and were absent or rare in undisturbed forest Eleven species (e g Seiurus aurocapillus, Vireo ohvaceus) tended to avoid logged areas, especially the centers of cut patches An additional 17 species fell between these two extremes, using a mixture of disturbed and undisturbed forest and showing no tendency to prefer one or the other These 17 species tended to have larger (1 to > 3 ha) territories than disturbance specialists We used ordination and quantitative matrix comparisons to describe and test relationships among 14 of the most common bird species according to their similarities in territory habitat structure, tree species composition, and foraging behavior These analyses did not reveal any strong associations between foraging behavior and use of cut versus uncut forest Habitat use by birds occupying this forest mosaic, with its strong local gradient of vegetation structure, was thus not associated with concurrent variation in foraging behavior The sizes of cut patches of forest (0 7-1 6 ha) in our study area may be close to the minimum required to attract distinct breeding assemblages of non-forest birds to otherwise undisturbed forest ecosystems Bird species that use patches of early-successional vegetation embedded m a forested landscape may adopt a fugitive strategy as they seek nesting habitats in the spring Careful use of forest management techniques may permit both forest-interior and early-successional bird species to coexist m the landscape