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Effects of pine-oak woodland restoration on breeding bird densities in the Ozark-Ouachita Interior Highlands

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Roach, Melissa C.; Thompson, Frank R.; Jones-Farrand, Todd

Year Published



Forest Ecology and Management


Restoration is underway to restore lost or degraded remnants of savanna and woodland in the Midwestern United States in the hopes of restoring floristic and wildlife diversity. Information is needed on the effects of pine savanna-woodland restoration on bird abundance to inform management decisions. We conducted point-count surveys for 19 bird species across the gradient of savanna, woodland, and forest in restored and non-restored areas throughout the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands in parts of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma during the 2013–2015 breeding seasons. We estimated densities of 16 species using distance sampling to account for detection probability, and we determined relationships of bird abundance with management and vegetation variables by evaluating support for a priori models. Densities of early-successional and generalist species were positively related, and interior-forest species negatively related, to restoration. Densities of Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens), Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus), Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor), Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus), and Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) were positively related to prescribed fire activity. Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera), Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa), and Yellow-breasted Chat densities were positively related to tree thinning. Many species had higher densities in areas with less canopy cover, tree density, and forest cover. Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), Black-andwhite Warbler (Mniotilta varia), Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), and Wormeating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum) were negatively related to one or more aspects of restoration treatment and generally preferred areas with greater tree density and canopy cover. Summer Tanagers (Piranga rubra) were abundant but density was not strongly related to management or vegetation variables. Restoration provided breeding habitat for disturbance-dependent species and woodland generalists, many of which are species of conservation concern, but canopy cover generally remained too great for species that require more open savanna.


Woodland; Distance sampling; Canopy cover; Prescribed fire; Tree thinning; Early successional; Restoration; Hierarchical models


Roach, Melissa C.; Thompson, Frank R.; Jones-Farrand, Todd. 2019. Effects of pine-oak woodland restoration on breeding bird densities in the Ozark-Ouachita Interior Highlands. Forest Ecology and Management. 437: 443-459.

Last updated on: February 26, 2019