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Landscape-dependent distribution of northern forest birds in winter

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We evaluated the effects of landscape structure, along a broad gradient of deforestation (forest cover 8–88%, 500-m radius), on the spatial distribution of forest birds exposed to winter climatic conditions, in Quebec, Canada. Concurrently, we conducted an experiment to determine if these effects would persist if an unlimited source of energy, provided by food-supplementation, became available. We analyzed these effects at the population level, using count data of black-capped chickadees Poecile atricapillus, but also at the community level, referring to species richness. In one of the two years of the study, before food-supplementation began (November), “forest integrity” (a composite of forest cover and edge density) was positively associated with chickadee abundance and species richness. Each year, forest integrity was also positively associated with chickadee abundance and species richness in landscapes that were supplemented (December–February). However, in control landscapes, during the food-supplementation period, chickadee abundance and species richness tended to decrease with an increase in forest integrity. We argue that the more forested control landscapes facilitated winter emigration of juveniles and transient birds. Conversely, our results further suggest that, in the highly deforested and fragmented control landscapes, birds became “gap-locked” when rigorous winter climatic conditions exacerbated already existing movement constraints.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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