Skip to main content

Tag: Restoration

What exactly is a bird’s eye view of the forest?

This post first appeared on Rogue Forest Partners.

At Klamath Bird Observatory, we frequently tell the story of birds knowing our forests better than we do. Using birds as indicators, we’ve applied our science across the diverse and beautiful Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion to understand the ecological change from a bird’s perspective and used that information to inform conservation planning and restoration design. But what exactly is a bird’s eye view of the forest? When we see a forest, we see trees, shrubs, and grasses; we notice how dense the vegetation grows and how old the trees are. Birds see all of these things too, but individual species also hone in on specific features—snags, downed logs, openness or tightness of a canopy, the size of the patch of forest, or how close it is to a stream. We already use much of what we know about birds and habitats in conservation planning. Our work with the Rogue Forest Partners has provided a recent application for using birds as indicators in planning for the future health of our forests.

With new statistical tools, we can more effectively picture what a bird “sees” and how habitat is distributed across a landscape. Distribution modeling is the process by which a dataset of bird presences and absences from multiple surveys is paired with data about the landscape where the surveys took place. We get data about the landscape from satellite imagery known as Landsat, which measures and reports the reflected light, like a photo, but using more wavelengths, including some invisible to the human eye. “Species-centered” distribution modeling (named for its focus on what the bird sees in the landscape, instead of how people quantify it into vegetation types) uses the information from the surveys and data from the Landsat images to determine what features of the landscape best predict whether a species will be found there.

Unlike simply measuring bird presence directly with a survey, the species-centered models allow researchers to study larger areas and glean more information about where the potential habitat for a species is most likely to occur, even in places where surveys haven’t taken place or where the forest habitat features have not been quantified.

Once the models are created, they have a multitude of applications. A recent study by KBO scientists in partnership with OSU used species-centered distribution models “stacked” on top of one another to understand the effects of habitat fragmentation on bird diversity.

Species-centered distribution models can also help us understand the broad landscape-scale impact of disturbances such as wildfire or restoration treatments such as prescribed thinning and burning.

Black-Throated Gray Warbler Photo (c) Frank Lospalluto

Since data from Landsat images are available every year, KBO scientists are beginning to test how species-centered distribution models can be applied to assess the effects of restoration treatments on bird habitat over time. For example, we have recently applied distribution models to examine a natural disturbance and recent restoration work in the Rogue Basin. The Quartz Fire, which burned in 2001, was studied using point count data in 2015. Using species distribution models and Landsat from the years before and after the fire, we were able to not only confirm results from our bird survey analysis, but also extract more data points to further our work examining differences among bird communities in low, moderate, and high severity burned areas following the fire.

In the Ashland Watershed, we used the models for 41 songbird species and Landsat imagery from 2004 (before any work took place) and 2019 (after the treatments were completed), we were able to quantify how the bird community changed following those treatments and evaluate whether restoration goals were achieved.

The ability to quantify changes in forest conditions using models, instead of solely monitoring birds directly at a given location, offers efficiencies for expanding the scope and scale of existing bird monitoring efforts to assess ecological change in the places we study. Our ongoing collaboration with Rogue Forest Partners provides an immediate, relevant application for the models, as restorative forest treatments are planned for the next decade to make forests more resilient and communities safe from wildfire. We monitor some of these treatments with bird surveys, but models provide another way to quantify that change across large landscapes that would be financially and logistically challenging to survey directly.

Over time, we can also measure how the forest grows back year after year and assess how bird habitat develops. For example, are the indicator species we expected to see following treatments likely to be there now? Are some species likely to occur in some areas that received a particular ecological thinning prescription more than other areas with a different approach? Does the presence of a species depend on how much of the landscape was treated? By asking these kinds of questions, distribution models provide “snapshots” of the ongoing restoration work that is vitally needed in our forests, help biologists assess habitat change over time, and inform the design and implementation of future restoration treatments.

Contributed by KBO’s Caitlyn Gillespie

Bird Monitoring in the Upper Applegate Watershed

This post first appeared on Rogue Forest Partners.

The Upper Applegate Watershed, located south of Ruch in Jackson County, Oregon, is a 52,000-acre USFS and BLM planning area among the region’s highest priorities for forest restoration. As part of a new project led by Rogue Forest Partners, over 18,000 acres of forested lands in the Upper Applegate Watershed are receiving restoration treatments over the next few years. Project benefits include improved forest health, protecting the surrounding communities from wildfire, and supporting climate resilience to mixed conifer forests that host many species of plants and animals.

To help monitor the ongoing restoration in the Upper Applegate Watershed, Rogue Forest Partners are working with Klamath Bird Observatory to study how the bird community responds to the forest restoration. KBO has a successful track record of studying the effects of restoration actions on bird communities, for example, oak restoration and riparian restoration. Similar to this previous work, KBO has designed a scientific study that uses both treatment and control areas (i.e., areas of the forest where there will be no management) to measure how the restoration treatments influence bird communities.

Birds are excellent indicators of forest structure and plant composition changes because they respond quickly to change, have known habitat associations in western forests, and are relatively cost-effective to monitor. In the case of the restoration activities in the Upper Applegate Watershed, scientists can track the presence and abundance of species such as Lazuli Bunting and Nashville Warbler to monitor increases in understory habitat. They can also observe other species such as Pacific-slope Flycatcher or Black-throated Gray Warbler to assess the increased proportion of large trees and canopy cover of hardwood species in mixed-conifer deciduous forest.

In 2021, KBO scientists completed bird surveys at treatment and control points within the Upper Applegate Watershed before any restoration work started on the ground. The surveys documented over 50 species. Once treatments conclude, KBO will go back to monitor these same points in a few years to see how the bird communities have changed.

Knowing how birds respond to treatments will help scientists better understand the overall effect of the restoration on achieving improved forest health and resilience and serve as a valuable tool for planning future projects in the area.

The Rogue Forest Partners are working with communities, government agencies, and other organizations to plan much-needed forest restoration in strategic locations to transform forested landscapes of the Rogue Basin in the next decade. Bird monitoring can help inform these projects to confirm that treatments are accomplishing the restoration goals or adjust as needed to provide healthy, resilient forest habitat for wildlife and people for decades to come.

Contributed by KBO’s Caitlyn Gillespie

NEWS RELEASE: Oak associated bird community benefits from restoration, new paper shows

NEWS RELEASE: December 2, 2020

CONTACT: Jaime Stephens, Science Director, Klamath Bird Observatory

Oak ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest are highly biodiverse and host more than 300 vertebrate species; yet a significant proportion of historic oak ecosystems in the region have been lost, and most remaining habitat is in a degraded state. Songbirds that are closely associated with oak ecosystems have experienced concerning declines, which is one of the reasons why research and restoration in oak habitats are priorities in our region.

Continue reading

NEWS RELEASE: Birds Teach Scientists How to Improve Streamside Restoration

***News Release: December 12, 2017***

Contact: Sarah Rockwell, Research Biologist, Klamath Bird Observatory, 541-201-0866,

Birds Teach Scientists How to Improve Streamside Restoration

Ashland, OR—Restoring river health in the western United States is important for addressing drought and water quality issues in support of restoring endangered salmon populations, but it is often challenging to understand how best to restore wildlife habitat along stream banks. A new study by a team of researchers from Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO), in partnership with the Trinity River Restoration Program (TRRP), sheds light on how best to understand the success of river restoration efforts: follow the birds.

Researchers studied a series of sites along the Trinity River in northern California for four years to figure out how best to restore vegetation along streambanks following river restoration. Creating new side channels and lowering the floodplain next to streams is good for fish spawning and rearing, but creating more salmon habitat sometimes requires a bulldozer. Removing lush, dense bank vegetation in the process may seem like bad news for birds, but the TRRP replants portions of the riverside with native trees and shrubs, and the birds come back. Still, it is important to monitor the newly created floodplains to ensure they are providing good habitat for wildlife – just in case this human assistance isn’t working the way we expect it to. The research team found that there are ways to plan river restoration and replant vegetation that encourage the birds to return, which can help improve restoration projects in the future.

To learn how birds respond to restoration, scientists studied four key bird species that are common in riverside habitats (Black-headed Grosbeak, Song Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Yellow Warbler) at a set of sites that have undergone restoration by the TRRP and a set of sites that were left as remnant mature forest. Birds are good indicators of healthy, functioning ecosystems, in part because they have a diverse range of habitat needs and respond quickly to changes in their environment. The authors compared vegetation on the recently restored sites to the remnant mature forest, and monitored which vegetation features were preferentially used by birds. Birds in the study overall chose to use areas with features of mature forest that were less abundant on new floodplains in the early stages of revegetation (planted just 3-10 years ago). Birds used the newly restored sites too, particularly the remnant patches of undisturbed habitat on those sites. Looking at where birds choose to raise their young reveals why: birds generally placed their territories and/or nests in areas with more canopy cover, taller trees, greater tree species diversity, and multiple layers of vegetation at different heights – all habitat features that may take decades to develop on restored areas. Knowing that these habitat features are important helps land managers recreate the best quality habitat for terrestrial wildlife and informs restoration planning. For example, future projects may benefit birds by leaving patches of mature vegetation within or near restoration sites whenever possible.

One result was unexpected. “We were really interested in the fact that Yellow-breasted Chats and Yellow Warblers frequently placed their territories or nests in areas with more Himalayan blackberry,” says Dr. Sarah Rockwell, KBO Research Biologist and lead author of the study. “Himalayan blackberry is a non-native, invasive shrub that land managers spend a lot of time and money removing – an important restoration practice – but the removal may have unintended consequences for birds.” She suggests that replanting with similarly structured native shrubs may be important in order to provide good nesting habitat for these birds following restoration.

Click here to view the abstract of Habitat selection of riparian birds at restoration sites along the Trinity River, California. Published in Restoration Ecology (Early View online) DOI: 10.1111/rec.12624.

Click here to download a zipped press package: News Release – Birds Teach Scientists

Click here to download a PDF of this news release: News Release – Birds Teach Scientists How to Improve Streamside Restoration


About Klamath Bird Observatory:
Klamath Bird Observatory advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. We achieve bird conservation in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the migratory ranges of birds native to our region. We developed our award-winning conservation model in the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. Emphasizing high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators of the health of the land, we specialize in cost-effective bird monitoring and research projects that improve natural resource management. Also, recognizing that conservation occurs across many fronts, we nurture a conservation ethic in our communities through our outreach and educational programs. Visit Klamath Bird Observatory at

About Trinity River Restoration Program:
Created by a Record of Decision from Congress in 2000, the TRRP is an inter-agency partnership (including National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, California Natural Resources Agency, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, and Trinity County) with funding from Bureau of Reclamation appropriations, Central Valley Project Improvement Act funds, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds. Its creation was motivated by drastic declines in salmonid fish populations observed in the Trinity River since the installation of two dams in the early 1960s, which slowed and stabilized the river flow, causing changes in the shape of the river channel and hydrology that were detrimental to salmonids. The TRRP is tasked with returning salmon fisheries to pre-dam levels by restoring the river’s physical processes – through techniques such as watershed restoration, managed flows, channel rehabilitation including construction of floodplain habitat scaled to restoration flow levels, gravel augmentation, and addition of large woody debris. These efforts are managed by the Trinity Management Council Partners, and advised by the Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group and a Science Advisory Board. Visit TRRP at

Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network to Host Oak Woodland Restoration Field Day

<img class="size-full wp-image-2850" src="" alt="Acorn Woodpecker (c) 2015 Jim Livaudais" width="216" height="288" title=" Acorn Woodpecker
(c) 2015 Jim Livaudais” />

*** PRESS RELEASE — For Immediate Release ***

On June 27, 2015 the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network (KSON) will host an Oak Woodland Restoration Field Day, designed to provide an opportunity for landowners and land managers to learn about oak restoration on their lands. This half-day event will be held at several properties in the Colestin Valley between Ashland and Yreka, where a large-scale private lands oak conservation partnership program has been underway for the past decade. A series of presentations by restoration professionals, agency managers, wildlife biologists, and private landowners will highlight current oak restoration and management approaches, the habitat value of oaks for birds and other native wildlife, and how landowners can access technical resources and funding for restoration.

The KSON partnership conserves oak habitats on private and public lands in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. KSON partners include non-governmental organizations, local state and federal agencies, Native American tribes, and private citizens. The Oak Woodland Restoration Field Day represents an important part of KSON’S goal to promote oak conservation and restoration by providing opportunities for practitioners and community members to engage on issues affecting threatened oak habitats. KSON members from Lomakatsi Restoration Project, Klamath Bird Observatory, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service will be present to offer their unique perspectives on oak restoration. This event will be an excellent opportunity for landowners and managers to meet others who share an interest in habitat conservation and restoration of oak savannas and woodlands, and to discuss the best ways to preserve these precious natural resources into the future.

The Field Day is free, but space is limited and registration is required. This event is planned for 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, and participants will need to provide their own lunch. For more information, including registration and carpool information from Ashland or Yreka, or for more information about KSON, please contact KSON Coordinator Kate Halstead at 541-201-0866 ext 7#, or at

Kate Halstead, Biologist & KSON Coordinator
Klamath Bird Observatory
541-201-0866, ext 7#

Click here to view pdf of this press release.

Click here to view event flyer.

Click here to download print quality image of Acorn Woodpecker (c) 2015 Jim Livaudais.