Forestry for Maine Birds works to create more and better bird habitat through forest management that will benefit not only the songbirds of conservation concern, but many other wildlife species that use these habitats as well.
Maine’s forests provide the most extensive breeding habitat for neotropical migratory songbirds of any state in the eastern U.S. Despite our relatively short breeding season, an incredible number of species and individuals are able to raise at least one successful brood of chicks yearly. Many of these species are “stewardship species” for the northeast, because such a large percentage of their populations breed here and are dependent on the unique characteristics of this habitat for their continued survival.
These songbirds depend on structural diversity within the forest – a range of different habitat structures – because each species nests and feeds in a different part of the forest, from the ground to the treetops, and from tree trunks to the outermost branches.
The Forestry for Maine Birds approach
The character of Maine’s forests, especially in the northern half of the state, has changed markedly in the last several decades with new ownership, new landowner goals, and changing international market forces. At the same time, population declines have been documented in many forest songbirds.
To stall further population declines, it is imperative that we act now to maintain and enhance high-quality breeding habitat for forest birds in Maine. Part of that effort will require increasing the structural complexity of our forests, since each species uses different features in the forest for nesting, feeding, and resting. The best way to do this is to work directly with landowners and the professionals – both foresters and loggers – responsible for managing those forestlands.
The Forestry for Maine Birds program targets three key audiences who together have a huge impact on our forest birds:
- Landowners have the potential to create high-quality bird habitat on their woodlots by managing “with birds in mind.”
- Foresters have the expertise to create management plans that consider what habitat birds need and how to create it over the long-term.
- Loggers implement forest management plans and can improve habitat for birds in how they operate equipment and manage work sites.
Throughout the year, Maine Audubon, The Forest Guild, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Maine Forest Service host forester, landowner, and logger workshops. These workshops bring the foundation of Forestry for Maine Birds into the field, with background on bird identification, a primer on bird habitat, and an assessment tool for helping evaluate forests with an eye to their role as habitat for birds and wildlife.
The Forestry for Maine Birds Guidebook (coming soon!) will provide foresters and landowners with background about the program, details on specific species we are targeting for conservation, desired habitat conditions, and silvicultural recommendations to achieve those habitat conditions.
What kind of forest is good for birds?
No one type of forest is good for every species of bird. A diverse mix of forest types across the landscape is critical for supporting a diverse mix of birds and other wildlife, and forest diversity has been declining in recent decades.
In southern Maine, forests are aging and the amount of young forest has declined on the landscape. “Middle-age” forest dominates much of the southern Maine landscape. In contrast, in northern Maine, young forest is much more abundant on the landscape. Market forces have driven some larger industrial forest landowners to reduce the rotation age of timberland, cutting trees at much younger ages than in the past. Mature forest has been reduced in this part of the state.
Because mature forest provides abundant and diverse structure, including lots of dead wood and gaps in the canopy where older trees have fallen over and young trees sprout, it is a forest type that supports 71% of our forest vertebrates. Woodland owners who manage their forests for a diverse mix of forest types that includes a high proportion of mature forest structure will provide high quality habitat not only for declining migratory songbirds, but for many other vertebrates as well.
- Forestry for Maine Birds Guidebook (pdf coming soon)
- 20 Priority Forest Bird Species (pdf)
- Forestry for Maine Birds Assessment Data Sheet (pdf)
If you’d like more information about Forestry for Maine Birds, or to host or attend an Forestry for Maine Birds workshop, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207.781.2330.