White-Headed Woodpecker Nesting Ecology After Wildfire

Authors


cwightman@mt.gov

Abstract

ABSTRACT  Within forests susceptible to wildfire and insect infestations, land managers need to balance dead tree removal and habitat requirements for wildlife species associated with snags. We used Mahalanobis distance methods to develop predictive models of white-headed woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) nesting habitat in postfire ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)-dominated landscapes on the Fremont-Winema National Forests in south central Oregon, USA. The 1-km radius (314 ha) surrounding 45 nest sites was open-canopied before fire and a mosaic of burn severities after wildfire. The 1-ha surrounding nests of white-headed woodpeckers had fewer live trees per hectare and more decayed and larger diameter snags than at non-nest sites. The leading cause of nest failure seemed to be predation. Habitat and abiotic features were not associated with nest survival. High daily survival rates and little variation within habitat features among nest locations suggest white-headed woodpeckers were consistently selecting high suitability habitats. Management activities that open the forest canopy and create conditions conducive to a mosaic burn pattern will probably provide suitable white-headed woodpecker nesting habitat after wildfire. When making postfire salvage logging decisions, we suggest that retention of larger, more decayed snags will provide nesting habitat in recently burned forests.

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