Characterizing habitat for threatened forest birds in Prince Edward Island, Canada
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Understanding habitat use is a first step in conserving species at risk. The objectives of this study were to determine the landscape, spatial, and habitat correlates of the number of bird Species of Conservation Concern (SCC), avian species richness, and use by two species at risk during the breeding season in Prince Edward Island (PEI) forested natural areas. Point counts (n = 29) and detailed habitat surveys (n = 41) were conducted in 19 natural areas from June–August 2017 and 2018. Landscape features were quantified within 1, 5, and 10 km radii of each natural area. Of the two species at risk, Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) was detected at 15 sites and Olive-sided Flycatcher at 3 sites, including locations of point count surveys and incidental sightings. Sites with high species richness did not tend to support SCC. At the landscape scale, the amount of mixed forest in the landscape was important for SCC. As well, SCC tended to use areas that were closer to fresh water, further away from edges, and had more contiguous forest. At the site level, SCC tended to use wet forests with less herbaceous cover and less coniferous vegetation in the shrub layer. At the landscape level, Canada Warbler occupancy was associated with more coniferous and mixed forest within 5 and 10 km of natural areas. At the site level, Canada Warbler occupancy was associated with wet vegetation types, greater number of song perches, more cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) in the low shrub layer, more speckled alder (Alnus incana) in the tall shrub layer, and higher ground cover of Sphagnum moss. Insufficient data precluded analysis of Olive-sided Flycatcher habitat use. Sites with Canada Warbler tended to support other SCC. Results of this study suggest opportunities to manage for both Canada Warbler and other SCC in PEI forested natural areas.
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