We examined cavity-nesting bird use of natural snags (n = 221) and 10- to 12-year-old snags (n = 836) created by topping mature conifers in 3 silvicultural treatments (group-selection cuts, 2-story regeneration harvests, clearcuts with retained trees) and 2 snag arrangements (clustered, scattered) in 30 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) stands in the Oregon Coast Range. Eight bird species nested in created snags. Open-canopy stands (2-story and clearcut treatments) had higher levels of avian nesting, species richness, and species diversity compared to closed-canopy, group-selection stands. We did not find a difference in nesting levels between clustered and scattered snags. In created snags, most active nests were in the top 25% of the bole, cavity entrances typically faced northeast, and the presence of dead branches did not alter use of snags for nesting. Topped conifers that remained alive (n = 102) were rarely used for nesting or foraging. Since the last survey 6 years prior to our survey, the number of cavities per created snag per silvicultural treatment increased 3.3- to 6-fold, and we observed 4 additional avian species nesting; 3 were secondary cavity nesters. Total cavities per snag averaged 5.1, 4.3, and 2.5 for created snags, natural snags >12 years old, and natural snags <12 years old, respectively. Only 1 created snag fell in the decade since topping. Natural new snag recruitment resulting from residual green tree mortality was highest in 2-story stands (0.76 snag/ha) and lowest in clearcuts (0.20 snag/ha). Snags created by topping large conifers provided nesting and foraging structures for cavity-nesting birds under a range of silvicultural conditions, and use was influenced more by residual green tree density than snag arrangement. In addition, created snags increased in value for birds through their first decade (88% had cavities). Because snags created by topping last long and are readily used by birds, they should be considered a management option to improve avian habitat in managed forests.
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Vol. 69 • No. 4