Birder's Guide

MAY 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 37 of 51

Pine Woodlands 36 BirderÕs Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2014 the grasses and wildfowers in the un- derstory were smothered under shade and thick layers of fallen leaves. In areas where pines were still valuable, faster- growing species often were planted in plantations and managed with short- rotation clear-cuts and mechanical scar- ring of the soil to prepare the sites for planting. Several species of birds closely as- sociated with the pine woodlands suf- fered drastic declines after the big trees were cut and fre suppression limited grassy growth in the understory. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which nests in cavities of older pines, is now listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Ser- vice as endangered. Viable populations exist only where fre has been restored and management favors the growth of large pines in open woodland settings. Brown-headed Nuthatch, a pine obli- gate, and Bachman's Sparrow are on the Partners in Flight WatchList because they are considered to be highly vulner- able due to a combination of small and declining populations, limited distribu- tions, and high threats throughout their ranges. The Northern Bobwhite, which once fourished in the grassy understory of the coastal plain, has plummeted in numbers. And the mighty Ivory-billed Woodpecker is now nearly if not actu- ally extinct. The Beginnings of Conservation Luckily for the birds, conservationists began to see the need to restore native pine woodlands, although it took a while for the idea to catch on. Herbert Stod- dard, in his landmark 1931 book, The Bobwhite Quail: Its Habitat, Preservation, and Increase, recognized the critical role that fre plays in maintaining the grassy understory of longleaf pine systems. Yet it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that the use of fre as a management tool became widely accepted among conser- vationists and managers. Listing of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker as feder- ally endangered in 1970 played a key role in increasing interest in fre-driven This open pine forest at Fort Polk in Louisiana has been maintained with a regular regimen of prescribed burns that clear out the woody undergrowth and promote a diversity of grasses and forbs to grow. This—but with much larger trees—is what the frst European visitors to the Southeast would have seen, and what birds like Red-cockaded Woodpecker depend on. Photo © Keith McKnight Without regular fre, Southeastern pine forest—like this one in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma—quickly develops a dense, woody understory. This leads to hotter, much more destructive fres that can kill the pines. Photo © Keith McKnight Northern Bobwhites, like many other species, require fre- maintained habitats. Photo © Gary Kramer 5-Pine Woodlands2.indd 36 5/22/14 7:54 PM

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