Landscape Use by Hairy Woodpeckers in Managed Forests of Northwestern Washington

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  The hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) is a keystone species in forest ecosystems of Washington, USA, providing nesting and roosting cavities for many species of wildlife. Therefore, management practices that promote healthy populations of this bird will help to conserve cavity-nesting communities as a whole. The objective of this study was to determine patterns in forest type and landscape use by hairy woodpeckers, and thus, provide landscape-level recommendations to forest managers. We documented the ranging patterns and habitat use of 23 hairy woodpeckers on the Olympic Peninsula using radiotelemetry and a Geographic Information System analysis. Use patterns of stand age, type, and size, as well as distance-from-edge analyses revealed that the hairy woodpecker is a relative generalist in its use of the managed forest landscape. However, certain features, such as older stands with large trees, were used more heavily by nesting pairs. Hairy woodpeckers used 61–80-year forest stands significantly (P < 0.05) more than expected relative to their availability within the birds' home ranges. We also documented significant underuse of 6–10-year and 11–20-year stands, whereas the birds used 41–60-year stands, >80-year stands, and clear-cuts (< 5 yr) equivalent to their availability. We suggest that hairy woodpeckers select older stands with larger, dying trees for foraging, but also use clear-cuts proportionally due to the residual snags, decaying trees, and remnant dead wood available. Higher use (P < 0.001) by hairy woodpeckers of small forest patches (0–5 ha) and intermediate-sized stands (5–30 ha) than large patches (>30 ha) may be a result of the older, higher-quality habitat available in small stands in the managed forest landscape. We recommend that land managers interested in maintaining healthy managed forest ecosystems with a full complement of cavity-using species in forests of western Washington and northwestern Oregon maintain a landscape mosaic with approximately 45% of the landscape in stands >40 years, and >30% of the landscape in stands >60 years.

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