Paper documents bird use of young forests after the nesting season

Clearcutting is a common forestry practice in eastern forests. Many studies have documented songbird use of young regenerating forests during the breeding season when birds are singing. However, information about bird use of regenerating forests immediately after the breeding period is limited.

Results were recently published for a study in Missouri that documented the change in abundance of songbirds during the post-fledging period in young deciduous forest stands over the first 15 years of regeneration. The authors used nets to capture birds in the young stands and found that during the decade after clearcut harvests, large numbers of birds used these regenerating stands during the post-fledging period, with peak captures about three years after timber harvest. Capture rates in the regenerating stands were 6–10 times as high as those in nearby mature forest.

The abstract for the paper follows.

“We focus on bird use of clearcuts resulting from even-aged management as part of the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP). The long-term nature of MOFEP allows us to present a 15-year monitoring of bird use of MOFEP clearcuts in July using constant effort mist-netting. This provides insight into the dynamics of forest bird use of clearcuts during the post-fledging period for both early succession and mature forest breeding birds. We operated nets ~10,080 hrs and captured 4,711 individuals, with 2,718 individuals considered mature forest breeding birds, and 1,993 individuals considered early succession species. There were few birds occupying clearcuts in year 1, immediately after cutting. Mean captures of all species as a group showed a significant curvilinear trend over time with an early peak in year 3 to 4 followed by decline. Mean captures of early succession species showed a significant trend of an early peak in year 3 followed by steady decline. Mature forest breeding species captures showed a significant curvilinear trend that increased gradually up to a peak around 6–9 years after harvest and then declined. Capture rates suggest that large numbers of birds use clearcuts in the decade after the clearcuts are formed. The abundance of forest-breeding birds in clearcuts in late summer equals or even exceeds the abundance of clearcut-breeding birds found there. This suggests that clearcuts may be an important habitat for mature forest breeding birds after they breed in mature habitats. More work on post-fledging behavior of migratory birds is needed to determine those species which require early succession habitats such as clearcuts and those species which simply take advantage of such habitats should they occur in the vicinity.”



Porneluzi, P. A., R. Brito-Aguilar, R. L. Clawson, and J. Faaborg. 2014. Long-term dynamics of bird use of clearcuts in post-fledging period. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126(4):623–634.