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Tag: Breeding

NEWS RELEASE: Using Life Cycles of Culturally Significant Birds to Inform Timing of Prescribed Burns

CONTACT: Elva Manquera-DeShields, Science Communications, Outreach, and DEIJ Manager, Klamath Bird Observatory, 541‐908-0040,

This press release was first published on the Forest Service and United States Department of Agriculture website. 

Photo Credits USDA Forest Service photo by Frank Lake
Western Klamath Restoration Partnership prescribed fire at Roger’s Creek near Somes Bar, California, June 2023.

Pacific Southwest Research Station and Klamath Bird Observatory ecologists recently published new findings about using life cycles of culturally significant birds to inform the timing of prescribed burns in the Klamath Siskiyou Bioregion of Northern California and southern Oregon. The research was a collaborative effort with partners from the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Technological University, and others.

The team studied bird banding data from 11 different species collected over 22 years. Focusing on birds that have cultural significance to local tribes, such as orange-crowned warblers, researchers gathered information about their life cycles. Birds expend a lot of energy during molting and breeding seasons, which leaves them more vulnerable to threats such as fire.

Michigan Technological University Assistant Professor and the paper’s co-author, Jared Wolfe, stated that “we found, in general, breeding tends to start near the beginning of April in the redwood forests, and later, towards the end of April, in coastal regions and along the Klamath and Trinity rivers.”

Birds have long been integral to tribal ways of life and part of indigenous knowledge but have suffered population losses. Devastating wildfires fueled by climate change and other factors have caused some western bird species to plummet. Prescribed burns can benefit these birds by helping restore forest ecosystems. However, when prescribed burns take place during birds’ molting and breeding seasons, they can cause unintentional harm.

Klamath Bird Observatory Executive Director and the paper’s co-author, John Alexander, explained that “our research results provide more precise guidance that can inform the timing of prescribed burns based on birds’ breeding and molting seasons.”

Researchers found cultural burning practices, which coincide with natural seasonal cycles, likely pose fewer threats to birds.

Pacific Southwest Research Station Ecologist, Tribal Liaison, Karuk tribal descendant, and the paper’s co-author, Frank Lake, emphasized that “this research can guide land management decisions to better align with traditional tribal burning practices that consider culturally significant birds.”



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.

Headquartered in Albany, California, the Pacific Southwest Research Station is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Research and Development branch, developing and communicating science to sustain forest ecosystems and other benefits to nature and society. Pacific Southwest Research Station scientists are engaged in research across a network of experimental watersheds, ranges and forests, with research facilities in California, Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. For Research and Development happenings, follow Pacific Southwest Research Station on X.

KBO Research Documents Short-Distance Migrations of Breeding and Molting Birds

Birds in the western United States time their breeding and molting (annual replacement of feathers) behaviors with seasonally abundant food resources. Understanding how birds move across the western landscape to acquire the food they need to successfully breed and molt represent critical pieces of information for wildlife managers.

To measure bird movements in the western United States, researchers from Klamath Bird Observatory and U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station have been capturing and marking birds throughout northern California and southern Oregon. These data have now been used to analyze movements of breeding and molting birds to better understand the habitat requirements of multiple species throughout their annual life-cycle.

“After the breeding season, many species were found to move away from their breeding grounds before they began molting” says Jared Wolfe, co-author and KBO research associate. “My graduate student leading this research, Andrew Wiegardt, and I, in addition to the KBO scientific team, believe that dry, late-summer environments prevent many birds from remaining on their breeding grounds late in the season. To find the insect and fruit-rich habitats necessary to molt, many birds left their breeding territories and made small-scale movements to environments with more food, such as wet meadows and riparian forest”.

Results from this recent research highlight that most migratory species are reliant on multiple locations and habitats in northern California and southern Oregon to breed and molt prior to fall migration. For long-distance migrants, such as Wilson’s Warblers, these different locations used for breeding and molting often occurred on an altitudinal gradient where birds tended to breed in lower elevations during the spring, and then moved upslope to molt at higher elevations late in the summer.

The findings of this study were published in the March 2017 issue of Journal of Field Ornithology and the October 2017 issue of Ecology and Evolution.


KBO Research Associate Dr. Jared Wolfe received his BS and MS from Humboldt State University. He completed his PhD at Louisiana State University studying landscape demography of Amazonian birds. Dr. Wolfe is a science advisor for Costa Rica Bird Observatories, co-founder of the Louisiana Bird Observatory, North American Banding Council certified trainer and current board member serving as a trainer-at-large, and a permitted master bander in the USA and Brazil. He regularly coordinates bird monitoring and statistical workshops in the USA, Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil. Dr. Wolfe is an Assistant Professor at Michigan Tech University.

Jared’s affiliation with KBO has been long and fruitful, resulting in multiple scientific publications focused on migratory and resident bird demography as well as the influence of climate on migratory bird condition, molt patterns and novel ageing systems for tropical birds.