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Eastern whip-poor-will breeding ecology in relation to habitat management in a pitch pine-scrub oak barren

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Akresh, Michael E.; King, David I.

Year Published



Wildlife Society Bulletin. 40(1): 97-105.


Numerous wildlife species are dependent on the creation and maintenance of early successional forests, yet little is known about the effects of habitat management on some threatened species. One such species is the eastern whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferous), a nocturnal bird of conservation concern. We examined the effects of heavy thinning, mowing, burning, and herbicide treatments on this species by conducting point counts and nest searches on a pitch pine–scrub oak (Pinus rigida–Quercus ilicifolia) barren in western Massachusetts, USA, between 2006 and 2013. Our point-count data showed that the abundance of calling birds was greater in managed shrublands such as scrub oak barrens and heavily thinned pitch pine stands, compared to closed-canopy pitch pine and deciduous forest. We found a high number of whip-poor-will nests (n=26) and roosts (n=59), which we located primarily within managed shrublands. We did not search for nests in closed-canopy forests, and we were unable to determine the extent of their use of the forest edge for nesting. Nevertheless, birds selected nest sites under residual deciduous trees within the early successional forests; therefore, canopy cover appears to be important for nest placement at the nest-patch spatial scale, but not necessarily at a broader scale. Nests were found in both dense and sparse understory vegetation; none were found in vegetation patches that were <2 years since treatment. Estimated nest survival was 63% through incubation (daily survival rate=0.977, n=21), consistent with other published studies of nightjars in the United States and Canada. Creating and maintaining open-canopy early successional forests in pitch pine–scrub oak barrens, with the retention of some residual deciduous trees, should increase the amount of habitat suitable for courtship, roosting, and nesting by eastern whip-poor-wills.


aerial insectivore; Antrostomus vociferous; Caprimulgiformes; fire; nest survival; nightjar; population limitation; shrubland; thinning


Akresh, Michael E.; King, David I. 2016. Eastern whip-poor-will breeding ecology in relation to habitat management in a pitch pine-scrub oak barren. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 40(1): 97-105.

Last updated on: May 18, 2016