Winter habitat use by Boreal Chickadee flocks within a managed forest landscape

Authors: Hadley, Adam
Advisor: Desrochers, André
Abstract: Resident bird species inhabiting northern latitudes are considered to be the species most exposed to the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation of boreal forests. Despite the fact that their population dynamics appear to be strongly determined by events occurring during the non-breeding season, we have little knowledge of the winter ecology of boreal birds. My objective was to determine how increasing edge densities and reducing the proportion of mature boreal forest will affect a resident bird species. I recorded movements of 85 unmarked and seven colour banded winter flocks of the little-known Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonica), in a 66 km2 boreal forest harvested for timber near Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. From January-March (2004 and 2005), I followed flocks on snowshoes and recorded their paths in real time using a handheld GPS receiver. Using marked individuals, I found winter Boreal Chickadee flocks included an average of 4 individuals, occupied a mean winter home range of 14.7 ha and showed stable membership. Based on 74 km of flock movements, Boreal Chickadees strongly preferred mature forest (> 7 m in height), used regenerating forest (4-7 m) to a lesser extent and avoided younger stands (< 4 m) and open areas. Chickadee flocks showed no response to forest edges when using mature forest stands. However, inside regenerating forest, flocks were significantly closer to both open edges (41 ± 6 m) and mature forest boundaries (11 ± 2 m) than would be expected from random use of the habitat. Boreal Chickadee flocks did not avoid exposed edges during harsh weather conditions. In fact, on colder days, they were found disproportionately more often along edges between mature and regenerating stands. Increasing edge densities, resulting from clearcutting in boreal forest, does not necessarily reduce the winter suitability of remaining forest patches, even under inclement weather. However, I conclude that forest harvesting will result in a reduction of optimal wintering habitat for this species.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2006
Open Access Date: 12 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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