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Science Brief: Using KBO science to identify bird conservation opportunities in timber stand management

Forests in the Klamath Mountains Ecoregion, centered within the core of Klamath Bird Observatory’s focus region, are home to a diversity of wildlife, including birds. While old-growth forests receive a lot of attention, species such as Black-throated Grey Warblers, Rufous Hummingbirds, and Olive-sided Flycatchers all use habitat features of younger, early-successional forests, such as broad-leafed trees and shrubs, edges, or snags.

Because most of the early-successional forest in our region is privately managed, Klamath Bird Observatory recently worked with several partners to identify conservation opportunities for birds in southern Oregon’s private timber stands. With support from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, we worked alongside the American Bird Conservancy, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), and private forest management companies (Hancock Forest Management, Weyerhauser, and Lone Rock Forest Resources) to learn more about how privately managed timber stands can provide habitat for birds.

One of the main goals of the project was to identify opportunities for improving early-successional forest bird habitat on privately-managed timber forests, and asking what management practices might make those habitats of greater value to birds. As a first step, we produced a scoping document titled Sustainable Forest Management: Opportunities for Bird Conservation on Private Timberlands in the Klamath Mountains, Oregon. It identifies focal bird species and habitat features that are important in the early successional forest of our region. This document compiled information from forest bird conservation plans and identified potential management action on private lands that would benefit many of those bird species.

The next step was to study how bird species use private forests in southern Oregon, and how different characteristics of timber stands contribute to habitat quality. To do so, we used species distribution models (SDMs), developed from 16 years of bird survey data from across the Klamath Mountains Ecoregion. Our unique SDMs use historical bird survey data and unclassified land cover imagery to develop a mathematical model that can be used to predict where species will occur on a landscape (See Using Birds to Predict Habitat Conditions for more information about our modeling approach). One of the advantages of using a model to predict bird habitat is that it allowed us to identify and rank the bird habitat potential for a large number of privately managed timber stands on the landscape. While KBO did field work on a small sample of those stands to check the models, our research using KBO’s larger region-wide dataset was ultimately able to provide information about bird habitat on over 2,100 privately managed forest stands in the region!

Finally, to learn more, we conducted two workshops with forestry professionals to understand how management can create high-quality early-successional habitat for birds. We visited some of the stands, talked about the results from our research, and discussed the management that may have contributed to how different timber stands ranked in our analysis. The workshop led to some successful conversations about practices that can be easily incorporated into existing forest management plans to create habitat for birds. Our workshops and research ultimately led to the development of two factsheets that highlight some of the key opportunities for bird conservation in private timber stands in our region. We’ve compiled the resources from this project as a manager’s guide on Avian Knowledge Northwest. Click here to read more and to download the factsheets!