In the boreal forest, where tree cavities are mainly excavated by woodpeckers, many holes are incomplete excavations that are not suitable cavities for most other cavity users that form nest webs. We assessed cavity suitability for and use by a community of primary excavators and secondary users in managed and unmanaged landscapes in the boreal mixedwood forest of eastern Canada. We compared ground surveys of tree holes with direct inspections of the inside of potential cavities in remnant habitats surrounded by cutover areas and in large tracts of unharvested forest. We found that ground surveys overestimated suitable cavity abundance: only 38% of the potential cavities detected by ground surveys were suitable for nesting in both managed and unmanaged landscapes. Ground surveys of active nests correctly detected a greater proportion of primary (93%) than secondary cavity nesters (48%). In nest webs such as those of the boreal forest, where cavities are mainly created by woodpeckers, our results indicate that a large proportion of holes detected from the ground are not suitable for cavity nesters, thus overestimating the actual availability of nest sites. Furthermore, when nest cavities are active, ground surveys are satisfactory for detecting primary cavity nesters, but they are inadequate for detecting secondary cavity nesters.
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Vol. 19 • No. 4