Breeding Bird Community Responses to Growing Versus Dormant Season Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fires are frequently used to restore and maintain pine savanna in the southeastern United States. Although several declining bird species occur within these pine savannas, few studies have directly compared the effects of growing versus dormant season prescribed fires on breeding birds. Therefore, we compared the effects of growing- versus dormant-season prescribed fires on breeding bird communities in mature pine (Pinus spp.) stands within the Fort Benning Military Reservation in west-central Georgia. We used 50 m fixed-radius point counts to sample breeding bird communities in growing and dormant season burned stands for two years post-treatment. We detected 50 bird species between 1-2 years post-burn, with 43 species detected on growing-season burned sites and 48 species detected on dormant season burned sites. We detected few effects of season of burn on vegetation, individual bird species, bird habitat associations, or migratory strategy. Of the 25 bird species with >1.5 individuals 10 ha-1, only prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) abundance differed by season of burn, and all three species were more commonly encountered in growing- season burned stands 1-2 years post-burn. Although our results indicate that season of burn may have little effect on breeding bird communities after a single growing season burn, multiple growing season burns may result in more profound changes in the vegetation that could affect breeding bird communities within fire-maintained pine forests in the southeastern United States.

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