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1 August 2007 Environmental Factors Affecting Productivity of Brown-Headed Nuthatches
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Understanding the link between habitat use and components of fitness can yield useful insight into the environmental conditions necessary for population maintenance and can help promote effective habitat management. This information is especially important for species that are in decline or otherwise of conservation concern. Populations of brown-headed nuthatches (Sitta pusilla), an obligate cavity nester, have declined throughout their range, primarily due to extensive habitat loss and degradation. To help guide habitat management for this species, we identified habitat features associated with variation in the number of offspring fledged within 2 populations in southern Florida, USA. The most important predictor of productivity was the date on which a nest attempt began, with earlier nests producing more fledglings. The number of large pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) snags and, to a lesser extent, the number of small pine trees surrounding a nest site were positively associated with productivity. We recommend that land managers in southern Florida focus on providing abundant large pine snags because doing so will increase productivity and also may increase nest-site availability and the percentage of individuals that breed each year. Prescribed burning may be an effective way to increase the abundance of large pine snags; however, land managers should exercise caution when doing so because of the trade-off between snag recruitment and snag consumption that accompanies the use of fire. We lack the data required to predict the fire-return interval that optimizes this trade-off, but until these data are available we recommend increasing the spatial heterogeneity in fire-return interval and lengthening the fire-return interval in some areas to 5–6 years.

JOHN D. LLOYD and Gary L. Slater "Environmental Factors Affecting Productivity of Brown-Headed Nuthatches," Journal of Wildlife Management 71(6), 1968-1975, (1 August 2007).
Published: 1 August 2007

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