Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests with Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) are associated with higher bird abundance and diversity than are ponderosa pine forests lacking Gambel oak. Little is known, however, about specific structural characteristics of Gambel oak trees, clumps, and stands that may be important to birds in ponderosa pine–Gambel oak (hereafter pine–oak) forests. We examined associations among breeding birds and structural characteristics of Gambel oak at a scale similar in size to individual bird territories in pine–oak forests in northern Arizona and western New Mexico, USA. Avian species richness and occurrence of some bird species were associated with specific growth forms of Gambel oak. Estimated probability of Virginia's warblers (Vermivora virginiae), black-headed grosbeaks (Pheucticus melanocephalus), and red-faced warblers (Cardellina rubrifrons) occurring at points increased with increasing density of pole-sized Gambel oak 7–15 cm in diameter at breast height. We also found evidence that large Gambel oak trees (≥23 cm dbh) were associated with increased occurrence of yellow-rumped warblers (Dendroica coronata) at points. Some avian associations with oak were influenced by characteristics of ponderosa pines. For example, bird species richness was positively associated with the abundance of large Gambel oak when density of large pine trees ≥23 cm in diameter at breast height was low. Because large oak trees are rare and their numbers are thought to be declining, efforts should be made to retain and promote growth of additional oaks in this size class. Forest management practices that maintain forest openings, such as prescribed burning, could promote growth of pole-sized Gambel oak, which appears important to some bird species in pine–oak forests.
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Vol. 72 • No. 4