Science & Math Colloquium
September 17, 2013 | 11:45 AM to 12:35 PM
Dr. Scott Stoleson, Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Forest Service
Abstract: Is logging harmful to deep-forest birds, such as the scarlet tanager and wood thrush? Declining populations of many songbirds found in mature forests has sparked opposition to even-aged management (clearcuts) on public lands. However, recent work has actually found such birds in regenerating clearcuts after breeding, but before migration - a critical time in avian life cycles. Whether this use of clearcuts is common, or whether it affects the birds’ health, remain unknown. I simultaneously netted birds in mature forests and regenerating cuts in northwestern Pennsylvania the summers of 2005 to 2008 to test (1) whether deep-forest birds used clearcut habitats disproportionally post-breeding, and (2) whether such use affected their physiological condition. Based on >10,000 captures of 54 species, I found that most forest species were much more common in cuts than in forests post-breeding. Further, after controlling statistically for species and date, birds caught in cuts were generally in better condition, further advanced in molt, and had fewer ectoparasites than those caught in forests, suggesting they increase their fitness by moving to cuts after breeding. My results indicate that early successional habitats created by clearcutting may provide an important resource for many deep-forest birds.