Despite widespread efforts to avert wildfire by reducing the density of flammable vegetation, little is known about the effects of this practice on the reproductive biology of forest birds. We examined nest-site selection and nest survival of the Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) in New Mexico riparian forests treated or not for fuel reduction. In untreated plots the hummingbirds frequently nested in exotic trees such as saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia). Following fuel reduction, they increased use of cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizenii) as a nest substrate and nested at greater heights. Though fuel reduction influenced habitat and nest-site selection, it did not immediately affect nest survival. A logistic exposure model containing effects of year and interaction of nest height and substrate explained nest survival better than did other models. Estimates of daily nest-survival rates from this model varied by year from 0.970 (95% CI: 0.949– 0.982) to 0.992 (95% CI: 0.983–0.996), corresponding with period survival rates of 31% (95% CI: 13.7%–50.1%) to 73% (95% CI: 52.1%–85.9%). In addition, in all substrates except saltcedar, nest survival decreased with nest height. Our relatively high nest-survival estimates suggest that the riparian forest along the Middle Rio Grande provides high-quality nesting habitat for this species. Fuel reduction, however, reduces nest-site availability and can lower nest survival by removing potential nest sites in the forest understory, forcing hummingbirds to nest at greater heights where predation risk is higher.
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Vol. 111 • No. 4