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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Urban development —

Urban development — Photo: Scott Gillingwater increased edge is less of a concern in these forested landscapes since densities of nest predators and parasites do not increase after changes in the surrounding habitat, as is the case in agricultural landscapes. It is important to remember that the impact of management in a particular stand is not isolated. These changes could deter or increase bird populations in adjacent patches. When the larger landscape is diverse, birds can move to adjacent stands where habitat is suitable if temporary loss of their preferred habitat occurs through harvesting. In southern Ontario where mature and old growth conditions are rare, and the forest is broken into small, disconnected pieces, diameter-limit harvesting proves to be inadequate at preserving ecological function and diversity. Not only are diameter-limit cuts poor at growing trees and maintaining healthy diverse forests, but they also create unsuitable habitat for many breeding birds. Using the selection system is a practical alternative, as it will retain and create habitats more similar to old growth and unharvested forests. Applying group selection while retaining uncut areas in a forest can be a good management option. This preserves mature habitat while creating patches of early successional habitat that benefits a diverse group of species. Using a variety of harvesting methods, including preserving patches of old growth forest at the landscape level will provide habitat for the most species during all stages of the breeding cycle. No forest in isolation can provide habitat for all the species the landscape supports. Small disconnected pieces of forest in southern Ontario — Photo: Scott Gillingwater 56 Harvesting Effects on Birds

Male Northern Flicker in cavity with nestlings — Mark Peck Woodpeckers — Fungi — Harvesting Woodpeckers often choose nest sites in dead or partially dead trees. The ideal tree for cavity breeders has a hard outer shell (bark) that protects the nest against predation, and a soft decaying inner core, that makes excavation easy. Fungi that target the heartwood of living trees but do not affect the outer sapwood create trees that fit these criteria. Fungi spores enter the tree through wounds or exposed wood scars caused by broken branches, frost cracks, lighting strikes, or logging damage. The fungi grow into the heartwood of a tree and may rot the core for decades spreading up and/or down the centre of the tree. After decay has progressed in the tree for a number of years fungi appear as conks or mushrooms on the sides of the tree. In some species like oaks, these conks are rarely visible even when trees have undergone severe decay. A healthy vigorous tree will have the ability to restrict the spread of the rot to a localized area. Recent evidence suggests that a woodpecker’s bill is a microcosm of fungal spores that play a key role in the decay of dead trees, or snags. Many cavity nesters are shown to have a variety of wood inhabiting fungi living in their beaks. Woodpeckers initially puncture dead and dying trees in search of bark beetles and other wood boring insects, thereby creating holes in wood that serve as infection sites for airborne fungal spores. As the birds return to these holes to feed or to excavate them further for nesting they pick up the fungi in their beaks. They help spread the spores by foraging on other trees. These fungi serve a critical role in the decomposition of trees and influence how they are used by wildlife. Without adequate decay, woodpeckers are unable to excavate nest cavities—which serve as vital components of forests as nesting or denning sites for a large variety of wildlife. Land managers often target snag and declining trees with evidence of heart rot for removal. The removal of this critical habitat during selection harvest reduces the abundance of woodpeckers on logged sites. By retaining some existing cavity trees and snags as wildlife trees, where safely possible, you will help to maintain habitat for a whole host of species. Northern Flicker ejecting woodchips from cavity — Photo: Peter Burke Artist’s conk on sugar maple tree — Doug Tozer Harvesting Effects on Birds 57

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