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Variability in Nest Density, Occupancy, and Home Range Size of Western Bluebirds after Forest Treatments

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Complex land use and fuels management histories have resulted in significant changes in composition, structure, and function of southwestern forests and subsequent changes in the extent and quality of wildlife habitats. We evaluated how several currently used fuel reduction treatments (e.g., mechanical thinning and prescribed fire alone and in combination) affect nest attributes, nest density, nest tree occupancy, and home range size of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)-dominated forests of northern Arizona. Nest attributes, such as number of eggs or nestlings, varied among treatments, but did not differ statistically. Western Bluebird nest density was significantly influenced by treatment, with densities higher in treated areas, even though snag density was lower in treated areas than in control areas. The average (± SE) area of the 50% contour, across all treatment units, was 0.42 ± 0.07 ha, and the average area of the 90% contour was 2.36 ± 0.30 ha. Home range sizes for both probability contours evaluated were 1.5 times larger in the thin-only treatments than in the control units. Conversely, home range area in thin-and-burn treatments was approximately 30% smaller than in control units. The largest home ranges occurred in the burn-only treatments. Our results suggest that forest treatments, such as thinning and prescribed fire are, in general, beneficial to Western Bluebirds, but that low snag retention may be problematic in areas receiving prescribed fire as part of their treatment action.
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Keywords: Sialia mexicana; Western Bluebird; forest treatments; mechanical; prescribed fire; thinning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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