Higher bird abundance and diversity where American woodcock sing: Fringe benefits of managing forests for woodcock

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Declines of early-successional forest across the northeast United States during the past 60 years has caused declines in populations of associated birds and active forest management is necessary to reverse these trends. Land managers often focus on a few target species with hopes that non-target species are also conserved, but the effectiveness of management for so-called umbrella species is seldom verified. We compared bird assemblages at American woodcock (Scolopax minor) singing grounds and nearby, random forest sites to determine whether habitat management for woodcock benefits non-target bird species. Early-successional forest species were a key component of bird assemblages at singing grounds, but were largely absent from random forest sites. On average, the total number and diversity of birds were ≥1.5 times greater at singing grounds. We also found evidence for broader landscape differences in the number of bird species expected at singing grounds (n = 48; 95% CI = 41-56) and random forest sites (n = 34; 95% CI = 28-41). Our results indicate that forest management to support woodcock populations extends some conservation benefits to diverse non-target bird species. Thus, the woodcock may serve as an effective umbrella species, especially for early-successional forest birds, but complementary umbrella species should be considered to aid in the conservation of birds that breed in more mature forest.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Wildlife Management