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Characteristics of nest cavities of Barrow's Goldeneyes in eastern Canada

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Barrow's Goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica) are secondary cavity nesters found in western North America and, to a lesser extent, in eastern North America. The eastern North American population is concentrated in the province of Québec and totals about 2000 pairs. Characteristics of nest cavities used by Barrow's Goldeneyes have been described in western North America, but no nest cavities have been found in eastern North America. From 2004 to 2008, we searched for nest cavities in the species’ core breeding area in the boreal forests north of the St. Lawrence River. We captured 12 adult females on their breeding grounds and fitted them with transmitters, but none apparently nested so we conducted ground searches in areas near lakes where paired birds were observed. We found 11 cavities, with 10 in dead, decaying trees and one in the dead part of a dying tree. Nine cavities were in white birch (Betula papyrifera) trees. Mean cavity height was 3.5 ± 1.6 (SD) m (range = 1.2–6.6 m) and mean diameter at breast height (DBH) of cavity trees was 37.8 ± 4.7 cm (range = 32.2–47.5 cm). In contrast to the population in western North America, Barrow's Goldeneyes in eastern North America appear to rely on the availability of natural cavities formed in large, decaying trees for nesting. Current forestry regulations in Québec do not promote the retention of either large trees or older forests, reducing the availability of potential nest cavities for Barrow's Goldeneyes and likely threatening their long-term conservation. Therefore, we recommend that guidelines be developed to promote silvicultural practices aimed at preserving the long-term availability of large (DBH ≥ 30 cm) decaying trees across the breeding range of Barrow's Goldeneyes.
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Keywords: Bucephala islandica; backpack harness; commercial forest exploitation; prong-and-suture; radio-telemetry; snags

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 116 Carillon, Québec, QC, G1K 4Z6, Canada

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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