Response of Breeding Bird Communities to Restoration of Hardwood Bottomlands

Much of the original hardwood bottomland in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley is converted to crop lands. Land management agencies began restoring hardwood bottomland because of its importance to wildlife. To provide an initial evaluation of progress toward restoration, we used point counts to compare bird communities among plantations of 0 to 4, 7 to 15, and 21 to 27 years in age with natural sawtimber stands (>50 years in age) in the southern Delta region of Mississippi in 1994 and 1995. Mean number of species per point (species richness) increased with stand age (P < 0.05). Mean total abundance did not differ among age classes. Relative to bird communities of natural sawtimber forest at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge and Delta National Forest, respectively, Morisita's index of similarity was 85.4% and 74.3% for 21- to 27-year-old plantations, 41.9% and 35.0% for 7- to 15-year-old plantations and 4.6%. and 2.6% for 0- to 4-year-old plantations. Plantations in the 21- to 22- and 7- to 15-year-old age classes supported a substantial portion of the potential forest bird community, but still lacked area-sensitive and certain late-successional species. Plantations in the youngest age class were dominated by 2 abundant species, red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) and dickcissel (Spiza americana). Nevertheless, young plantations provide temporary habitat for regionally declining grassland bird species. Management prescription that mimic natural succession such as mixed plantings or thinning might enhance the restoration effort and promote earlier colonization by mature forest birds.

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