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NEWS RELEASE: Black-backed Woodpeckers found in greater density than expected in green conifer forests in their western range

NEWS RELEASE: February 1, 2021

CONTACT: Jaime Stephens, Science Director, Klamath Bird Observatory, 541‐944-2890,

Black-backed Woodpeckers are considered “keystone” species and indicators of bird community health. Considered specialists that prefer burned conifer forests, these woodpeckers favor sites where bark beetle larvae and other food sources are abundant after wildfires. Yet, Black-backed Woodpeckers are also known to inhabit green, unburned conifer forests, although the extent to which they use green forests throughout their range is poorly understood. Recent surveys revealed that Black-backed Woodpeckers are present in green forests in their western range in greater densities than expected, uncovering a need for greater understanding of the importance of unburned forests for conservation of this species.

In a recent study published in Avian Conservation and Ecology, “Black-backed Woodpecker occupancy is extensive in green conifer forests of the southern Cascade Mountains, Oregon,” researchers surveyed birds and vegetation across a study area in the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon to learn more about how Black-backed Woodpeckers use green conifer forests in this region, and how the occurrence of this species correlates with structural characteristics in these forests.

Researchers found that Black-backed Woodpeckers were present on 86% of green unburned forest transects that they surveyed, which was much higher than expected based on previous studies. They also found evidence of nests and young, indicating that Black-backed Woodpeckers are not only present, but also breeding.

Results highlight the importance of understanding how Black-backed Woodpeckers use different forest types, and importantly, suggest that green conifer forests should be included in management practices for this species. The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. (NCASI), Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Klamath Bird Observatory have partnered to create a “Research Brief for Managers” that highlights the key parts of this study that can guide conservation decision-making. Click here to download the research brief.

This study was led by Jake Verschuyl of NCASI with assistance from Dennis Rock of Wildlife Investigations, and Jaime Stephens and Kate Halstead of Klamath Bird Observatory. Additional logistical support was provided by the Fremont-Winema National Forest. Funding was provided by NCASI and the Bureau of Land Management Oregon State Office. Caitlyn Gillespie of Klamath Bird Observatory worked with Jaime Stephens to prepare the research brief.

Download the full version of the research article here.

Recommended Citation:
Verschuyl, J., J. L. Stephens, A. J. Kroll, K. E. Halstead, and D. Rock. 2021. Black-backed Woodpecker occupancy is extensive in green conifer forests of the southern Cascade Mountains, Oregon. Avian Conservation and Ecology 16(1):4.


The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Working in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds KBO emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators to inform and improve natural resource management. KBO also nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education.

NCASI is a 501 (c)(6), non-profit research institute created by the forest products industry in 1943 and has since evolved into the premier organization producing scientific information needed by the industry to addresses environmental and sustainability issues. NCASI operates as a membership association and as such, has historically made its research available primarily to its Member Companies. Current NCASI technical studies programs address air quality, aquatic biology, climate change, corporate sustainability, forestry, hydrology, recycling, risk assessment, solid waste, toxicology, wastewater treatment, water quality, wildlife ecology, biological diversity and more.

The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments.

The Fremont Winema National Forest spans across 2.3 million acres of Lake and Klamath counties in south central Oregon. Framed by migratory bird flyways, the Forest offers a diverse range of ecosystems and biodiversity. From lush alpine forests to high desert dry forest types, the Fremont-Winema offers a wide range of wildlife habitat. The Fremont-Winema is a working forest committed to accelerated forest restoration at a landscape scale to benefit forest health, wildlife habitat, watershed health and rural economic stability.


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