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The effect of local and landscape-level characteristics on the abundance of forest birds in early-successional habitats during the post-fledging season in western Massachusetts
Many species of mature forest-nesting birds ("forest birds") undergo a pronounced shift in habitat use during the post-fledging period and move from their forest nesting sites into areas of early-successional vegetation. Mortality is high during this period, thus understanding the resource requirements of post-fledging birds has implications for conservation. Efforts to identify predictors of abundance of forest birds in patches of early-successional habitats have so far been equivocal, yet these previous studies have primarily focused on contiguously forested landscapes and the potential for landscape-scale influences in more fragmented and modified landscapes is largely unknown. Landscape composition can have a strong influence on the abundance and productivity of forest birds during the nesting period, and could therefore affect the number of forest birds in the landscape available to colonize early-successional habitats during the post-fledging period. Therefore, the inclusion of landscape characteristics should increase the explanatory power of models of forest bird abundance in early-successional habitat patches during the post-fledging period. We examined forest bird abundance and body condition in relation to landscape and habitat characteristics of 15 early-successional sites during the post-fledging season in Massachusetts. The abundance of forest birds was influenced by within-patch habitat characteristics, however the explanatory power of these models was significantly increased by the inclusion of landscape fragmentation and the abundance of forest birds in adjacent forest during the nesting period for some species and age groups. Our findings show that including factors beyond the patch scale can explain additional variation in the abundance of forest birds in early-successional habitats during the post-fledging period. We conclude that landscape composition should be considered when siting early-successional habitat to maximize its benefit to forest birds during the post-fledging period, and should also be included in future investigations of post-fledging habitat use by forest birds.
Labbe, Michelle A.; King, David I.; Mousseau, Tim A. 2014. The effect of local and landscape-level characteristics on the abundance of forest birds in early-successional habitats during the post-fledging season in western Massachusetts. PLoS ONE. 9(8): e106398.