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Reproductive success of Lewis's woodpecker in burned pine and cottonwood riparian forests

Author(s): Victoria A. Saab, Kerri T. Vierling
Year Published: 2001

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) has been characterized as a "burn specialist" because of its preference for nesting within burned pine forests. No prior study, however, has demonstrated the relative importance of crown-burned forests to this woodpecker species by examining its reproductive success in different forest types. We studied breeding Lewis's Woodpeckers in cottonwood (Populus fremontii) riparian forest patches of Colorado and crown-burned ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of Idaho to compare their reproductive success, productivity, and potential source-sink status in the two forest types. Daily nest survival rates were significantly lower in cottonwood compared to burned pine forests. Nesting success was 46% (n 5 65) in cottonwood forests and 78% (n 5 283) in burned pine forests. Proportion of nests destroyed by predators was significantly higher in cottonwood forests (34%) compared to burned pine forests (16%). We consistently found crown-burned forests to be potential source habitat, whereas cottonwood riparian sites were more often concluded to be potential sink habitat. Cottonwood riparian forests were surrounded primarily by an agricultural landscape where the composition and abundance of nest predators was likely very different than the predator assemblage occupying a largescale burn in a relatively natural landscape. Conversion of riparian and adjacent grassland landscapes to agriculture and prevention of wildfire in ponderosa pine forests have likely reduced nesting habitat for this species. Prescribed understory fire is the prevailing management tool for restoring ponderosa pine ecosystems. Conditions created by crown fire may be equally important in maintaining ponderosa pine systems and conserving nesting habitat for the Lewis's Woodpecker.

Citation: Saab, V. A.; Vierling, K. T. 2001. Reproductive success of Lewis's woodpecker in burned pine and cottonwood riparian forests. Condor. 103: 491-501.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Birds, Cavity-nesters
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 11418
FRAMES RCS number: 6739
Record updated: Mar 20, 2018