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The influence of burn age on Lewis′s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) reproductive success and productivity.
Vierling, Kerri*,1, Gentry, Dale1, 1 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD
ABSTRACT- Lewis′s Woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis) have been characterized as burn specialists due to their preference of nesting within burned pine forests. Saab and Vierling (2001) suggest that recently crown-burned pine forests might function as source habitat for this species; however, the importance of a burned forest to Lewis′s Woodpecker reproduction might change throughout time with increased understory development and changes in snag availability. While Lewis′s Woodpeckers are noted to occur both in young and old burns, the relative importance of old burns (i.e. >10 years post fire) to Lewis′s Woodpecker populations is not known. The purpose of this study was to compare reproductive success and productivity of Lewis′s Woodpeckers breeding in an old crown-burned pine forest with published accounts of breeding activities in young crown-burned pine forests. In 1991, the Shirttail fire burned approximately 1700 ha in Wind Cave National Park and the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota. We surveyed two 300ha plots in the Shirttail burn during the summer of 2002 and located Lewis′s Woodpecker nests in these areas. We located 16 nests and monitored them every 3-4 days until they failed or fledged. Productivity in the Shirttail burn was higher than in the young burn (2.3 fledglings vs. 1.8 fledglings), and reproductive success was similar (76% in the old burn vs. 78% in the young burn). Predation was a major cause of nest failure in both young and old burns. The results of this study suggest that older crown-fire burns may provide important breeding habitat for Lewis′s Woodpeckers.
Key words: Melanerpes lewis, Lewis′s Woodpeckers, crown fires