Before European settlement of North America, open early successional habitats such as scrub-shrub were commonplace and provided important habitat for wildlife. Settlement resulted in the widespread clearing of forests for agriculture, timber, and fuel wood. When farms were abandoned in the late 1800s andearly 1900s, old fields rapidly succeeded to mature second growth forests. Creating declines in many scrub-shrub species populations.
Scrub-shrub habitats are characterized by low, multi-stemmed woody vegetation in young or stunted stagesof growth. Scrub-shrub communities can be dense and impenetrable or can consist of a mosaic of low woody cover interspersed with grasses and forbs. Mature trees may be present but are widely spaced. Scrub-shrub habitat is a typical late successional stage old field. The species of wildlife that use the scrub-shrub habitat require a diversity of micro-habitats ranging from dense shrub thickets to more open and dispersed shrubs intermixed with grasses and forbs.
Scrub shrub wildlife species feed on a variety of different food sources in the scrub-shrub and old field habitat. Some species feed on fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds found in the diverse habitat. Other species feed on a wide diversity of insects such as flies, bees, ants, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, beetles, and crickets. Additionally hawks and owls feed on a diversity of small mammals, snakes, and small songbirds that utilize the scrub-shrub habitat.
Habitat use by scrub-shrub birds is highly complex and variable. Vegetation structure may influence habitat use to a greater extent than plant species composition. Bird species richness is more likely to be the greatest in stands of mixed species with different growth forms. Mixed species stands support a wider range of invertebrates and produce a greater variety of fruits. Most fruit-eating birds will feed on a range of shrub species, but food selection is influenced by availability of fruits in the area. Insect and other invertebrate densities can be affected greatly by plant structure and diversity.
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Species and Habitat Needs
Note: Ericaceous shrubs include blueberries, cranberries, azaleas, & rhododendrons which need acidic soils.
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Creating and Maintaining Habitat
If you have an odd area or old field on your property you can easily manage for shrub-scrub birds on your property using prescribed fire or strip disking. Additional information on restoring and managing old field habitat can be found in our Old Field Management section. Remember the key to providing scrub-shrub habitat is to create a mosaic of disturb and undisturbed sites which consist of a mix of shrubs, grasses, forbs, and young saplings.
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