Forest management, forest vegetation, and climate influence nesting ecology of a focal bird species in the western USA

Ana Miller-ter Kuile, Kiona Ogle, Cheran Cavanaugh, Jonathan Dudley, Amy Markus, Victoria Saab, Marilyn Wright, Jamie Sanderlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Landscape-scale forest restoration aims to restore ecological structure and function and provide habitat for wildlife. However, forest management likely has varying impacts across wildlife life stages, with consequences for population persistence. Using 10 years of nest (n = 294) survey data for a focal bird species, white-headed woodpecker (Dryobates albolarvatus), we assessed how forest management (tree removal and prescribed burning) at two spatial scales (stand [2.25 ha] and landscape [314 ha]), forest vegetation variables at three spatial scales (nest tree, local [0.4 ha], and landscape [314 ha]), and climate influenced nest initiation date, egg production, egg survival, and nestling survival. We applied Bayesian hierarchical mixed effects models to these data to identify and compare drivers at each life stage. None of the variables we considered influenced egg production; white-headed woodpeckers laid an average of four eggs. As the extent of the landscape with tree removal increased, nests initiated later. Egg survival was higher in nests with prescribed burning at the stand scale. Nestling survival was higher in sites that had been managed with burning and tree removal at the stand scale, but the relationship with burning switched to negative at the landscape scale. Only nestling survival was shaped by attributes of the nest cavity itself. Egg survival increased with increased variation in forest patch sizes at the landscape scale. Woodpeckers initiated nests earlier under warmer conditions, with previous August and September temperatures being particularly influential. Both egg and nestling survival increased with cumulative precipitation. While increased temperatures decreased egg survival, nestling survival peaked at an optimal maximum temperature (∼32 °C). This study illustrates how forest management, forest vegetation, and climate factors affecting nesting ecology vary throughout the nesting season. Additionally, effects that switch directions (positive versus negative) across spatial scales indicate spatially dependent ecological processes (e.g., nest suitability versus adult foraging). This study provides a model for assessing the effects of forest management on bird population persistence by considering the nesting season as stages with distinct ecological limitations linked to spatially-dependent factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121443
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Egg production
  • Egg survival
  • Landscape-scale forest restoration
  • Nest initiation
  • Nestling survival
  • White-headed woodpecker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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