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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 ...

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Photo: Al Woodliffe 4. Maintain high basal area and leave large and supercanopy trees Areas with large, old, mature trees are common elements of old growth forests. Some species of forest interior birds, such as the Brown Creeper, Acadian Flycatcher, and Cerulean Warbler nest in the areas with large diameter trees. You can retain habitat for these species by adjusting single tree selection prescriptions to maintain sections with high basal area and more large trees (greater than 50 cm dbh). Preserving large diameter declining trees alone or in clusters will conserve quality nest sites for cavity nesting birds and species like Brown Creeper that nest in large old trees with peeling bark. We recommend that you leave at least three large trees (50 cm dbh or bigger, where possible) per hectare, particularly longer-lived species that can attain heights above the main canopy such as white oak, sugar maple, or white pine. Trees that project above the canopy, called supercanopy trees, are important for nesting, perching, and as sentinel trees for a number of birds and mammals (particularly hawks and eagles). Aim to retain at least one of these large trees per hectare to meet the criteria of a supercanopy tree. 5. Encourage growth of native plant species and diverse vertical structure Forests with greater plant diversity and structure will have more microhabitats for breeding, nesting, and refuge, thereby supporting a greater number of bird species than forests dominated by few plant species or with simplified vertical structure. Thinning in plantations will allow sunlight to reach the floor and can encourage the development of herb and shrub layers. You can encourage the growth and abundance of native understorey species by carefully planning skid trails and restricting disturbance to the winter season when frost and snow protect the ground. Ensure that logging equipment entering your woodlot is clean so that skidders are not transporting seeds of invasive species to your stand. Simply maintaining conifer elements in hardwood-dominated stands or deciduous elements within conifer stands is one strategy to increase biodiversity. Diverse vertical structure — Photo: Dawn Burke Large mature American beech — Photo: Robert McCaw Decaying downed wood — Photo: Lucas Foerster 66 Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity

Photo: Lucas Foerster 6. Retain cavity trees, snags, and downed wood Cavity trees are living or dead trees that contain holes used by mammals and birds for nesting, feeding, roosting, or for escape. Cavities can be excavated by woodpeckers during feeding or nesting, or created naturally from decay and broken branches. Over 50 species of birds and mammals in south and central Ontario rely on cavity trees and snags for food and shelter. Some, known as secondary cavity users, like Barred Owls, nuthatches, Wood Ducks, and flying squirrels cannot make their own cavities. They rely on retention of these natural holes or old woodpecker cavities for habitat. Even in the absence of timber extraction, cavity resources can be limited. As both cavity trees and holes are reused for years by a range of species, it is important for the land manager to retain them as wildlife habitat. We recommended you strive to retain at least 10 living cavity trees greater than 25 cm dbh in each hectare of forest to provide habitat for cavity dependent species. Trees should be selected from a range of species, and with a range of cavity sizes to accommodate the suite of species. Preference should be given to trees with cavities in the upper bole, and if possible from tree species that provide multiple wildlife benefits (e.g., mast producers and supercanopy trees). Nest cavities in particular are the most valuable. Snags and decayed parts of live trees are an important component of healthy forests. They serve as habitat and a rich source of food for birds that drill into wood or flake bark to find insects. This food source may be especially important during the winter for non-migratory species, when food is scarce. Snag retention guidelines can be difficult to attain during harvesting operations, as any trees that are a safety hazard must be cut down. The retention of a snag may require a tree length no-cut buffer around it to protect the forest workers. Ideally managers should leave at least five snags per hectare, and more where possible. At least one snag and one cavity tree should be large (greater than 50 cm dbh). Snags will also become critical habitat in the future, as they fall over naturally, increasing volumes of decomposing wood. Downed woody debris (DWD) is not only an important source of food for birds, but a critical component of the forest ecosystem, providing habitat for salamanders, reptiles, insects, bacteria, and fungi, aiding in nutrient cycling, and creating structural diversity important for the regeneration of many tree and plant species. In addition to an overall reduction in the volume of DWD in managed stands, there is a shift Female Wood Duck at cavity nest — Photo: Jeff Nadler Snag — Photo: OMNR Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity 67

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