Recent studies have demonstrated that many birds of mature forests heavily use early-successional habitat during the postbreeding period. Two frequently invoked hypotheses to explain these shifts are that postbreeding birds select (1) dense cover to reduce risk of predation and (2) abundant fruit resources to facilitate foraging. Using mist nets between 15 June and 16 August in 2002 and 2003, we captured mature-forest birds during the postbreeding period in 12 regenerating hardwood clearcuts (three to seven years old) in southeast Ohio. Vegetation structure and fruit resources were measured at nine net locations within each clearcut. We applied an information-theoretic approach, where we used vegetative and fruit variables as predictors in seven a priori models to evaluate how habitat factors might explain capture rates. In two seasons, we captured 1,089 hatch-year (HY) and 445 after-hatch-year (AHY) postbreeding birds of 32 mature-forest species. In general, models reflecting habitat structure (density of low vegetation, canopy height) best explained variation in capture rates, which were negatively related to the density of low vegetation (<1.5 m) and positively related to canopy height. Extremely dense low vegetation may be disadvantageous if it inhibits movements and provides cryptic locations for ground predators. Instead, habitats with greater vertical structure (e.g., taller vegetation) and relatively less dense low vegetation below may provide better protection from aerial and ground predators. Overall, results suggest that vegetation structure may explain high use of early-successional forests by many birds during the postbreeding period, though fruit may be the most important factor for seasonal frugivores.
Recursos Vegetativos y de Frutos como Determinantes del Uso de Hábitat por Aves de Bosque Maduro Durante el Período Posterior a la Reproducción