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Forest and Woodland Bird Habitat Management


Savanna and Open Woodland Birds
Snags for Nesting and Foraging
Forest Interior Birds


Forests in eastern United States provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Most eastern forests are privately owned or under a combination of private/ public ownership. Non-industrial private landowners own 59% of the forested land in the U.S., making private lands management critically important to the welfare of the fish and wildlife communities associated with forested landscapes. Sustainable forest management applies biological, economic, and social principles to forest regeneration, management, and conservation to meet the specific goals of landowners or managers. This means that in order to protect forest birds in the eastern United States habitat management on private lands becomes very critical for their restoration and protection.

Forest birds can be grouped into 3 groups those that prefer savanna habitat with 10 to 30% canopy closure and a herbaceous dominated understory. The second group of birds is those that utilize open woodlands with 30 to 80% canopy and a mix of herbaceous and shrub understory. The third group are forest species with require a canopy closure greater than 70%. There are two subgroups with in these species groups. The first are forest interior species which require a landscape of forest habitat and the second are snag utilizers. The snag utilizers require dead or dying trees that either provide substrate for excavating a cavity for nesting or dead and diseased limbs, branches, and trunks that harbor insects for food. Many species are actually generalist and managing a diver mix of savanna, open woodland, and interior forest habitat will provide you with the most benefits.

Management for these various groups requires altering the canopy, adding or removing midstory trees/shrubs (10 to 20 feet in height), forest floor shrubs (2 to 10 feet in height), and maintaining a herbaceous layer under the canopy floor. Management will vary by the forest bird group of interest to you, but can include even-aged management, uneven-aged management, forest stand improvements, snag creation, and prescribed fire.

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Savanna and Open Woodland Birds

Savanna and open woodland species are often commonly seen in your backyard. These species like widely scattered trees with an open understory that is either leaf covered or has a high proportion of herbaceous vegetation growing. These species are typically the easiest to manage for because all that needs to be done is open up the canopy to create habitat for these species. Savanna and open woodland birds typically are not sensitive to having woodland habitat located in an open landscape surrounded by agricultural fields and pastures. For information on creating a savanna or open woodland check out our section on pine savanna restoration, oak/hickory savanna restoration, and open woodland restoration. The following tables provide information on canopy closer, midstory layer, shrub layer, and herbaceous layer needs of common savanna woodland species.

Species

Savanna
10% to 30%
Canopy Closure

Open Woodland 30% to 70%
Canopy Closure

Midstory
10ft to 20ft in Height

Shrub Layer
2ft to 10ft in Height

Herbaceous Layer

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X (>30%)

X

X

X

X (<30%)

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X (>75%)

X

X (>75%)

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X (<30%)

X


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Forest Interior Birds

Forest Interior birds are much harder to manage for. They require large blocks of forest habitat ranging from 50 acres to well over a 1000 acres. Canopy for these species is much more closed compared to savanna and open woodland species. These species prefer canopies ranging from 60%to 90% closure. Forest management for these species requires creating canopy gaps and maintaining in some cases multiple canopy layers under the primary tree layer, a midstory layer and/or a shrub layer. However other species require some herbaceous ground cover and/or dead and down woody debris on the forest floor for feeding and nesting. Cerulean warblers for instance require large tracts of forest with a canopy ranging from 60% to 80% closure and a mid and shrub understory for feeding. For additional information go to our section of Forest Management andForest Stand Improvement. The following table provides key habitat needs for a number of forest interior species.

Species

Open Woodland 30% to 70%
Canopy Closure

Forest
>70%
Canopy Closure

Midstory
10ft to 20ft in Height

Shrub Layer
2ft to 10ft in Height

Herbaceous Layer

Dead & Down Material

Min. Forest Size (Acres)

X

X

X

X

250

X

X

125

X

X

X

80

X

X

X

X

X

250

X

X

50

X

X

X

250

X

250

X

X

X

X

>1000

X

X

X

X (75%)

750

X

X

X

250

X

X

X

X

X

750

X

X

X

X

X

250

X

X

X

250

X

X

X

25


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Snags for Nesting and Foraging

Within the groups of savanna, open woodland, and forest interior birds there are several species that require additional specialized forest stuructures in order to make the area usable. These species need snags, dead, dying or living trees that have been damaged and can be used for nesting or foraging For additional information on snag creation go to our section on Forest Management and Forest Stand Improvement. The following table provides snag and living tree diameters needed.

Species
Dead Snag sizes classes
Living tree size

Pileated Woodpecker

12 to 18 inches in diameter

> 18 inches in diameter

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

12 to 18 inches diameter

8 to 12 inches in diameter with decay

Downy Woodpecker

>6 inches in diameter

>8 inches in diameter

Hairy Woodpecker

>6 inches in diameter

>8 inches in diameter

Red-headed Woodpecker

12 to 18 inches in diameter

> 18 inches in diameter

Red-bellied Woodpecker

12 to 18 inches in diameter

> 18 inches in diameter, large limbs

Northern Flicker

12 to 18 inches in diameter

> 12 inches in diameter, broken top, large limbs

> 18 inches in diameter

> 18 inches in diameter

American Kestrel

12 to 18 inches in diameter

Eastern Screech Owl

12 to 18 inches in diameter

12 to 18 inches in diameter

12 to 18 inches in diameter

> 18 inches in diameter, live hollow.

> 18 inches in diameter

Carolina Chickadee

Less than 6 inch diameter dead and soft

White breasted Nuthatch

>12 inches diameter with broken top or big limbs

Less than 6 inch diameter dead and soft

> 8 inches diameter with internal decay, broken top, or large limbs

> 6 inches in diameter dead and hard

> 8 inches diameter with internal decay, broken top, or large limbs



  What to do when

Use the planning calendar below for tips on enhancing your land throughout the year. Click any of the selections below for more details.






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