Shrubland birds are declining throughout the eastern United States. To manage scrub-shrub habitats for birds, managers need information on avian habitat relationships. Past studies have produced contradictory results in some cases and may be of limited generality because of site- and habitat-specific factors. We studied shrubland birds across 6 habitats in 3 New England states to provide more general information on habitat relationships than has been possible in past studies. Our study sites included all major scrub-shrub habitats in New England: wildlife openings, regenerating clear-cuts, beaver ponds, utility rights-of-way, pitch pine (Pinus rigida) woodlands, and scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) barrens and ranged from Connecticut to northern New Hampshire, with research conducted from 2002 to 2007. Using N-mixture models of repeated point counts, we found that 6 of 12 shrubland birds preferred areas with greater shrub cover. An additional 4 species appeared to prefer areas with lower-stature vegetation and greater forb cover. Eight of 10 bird species showed relationships with cover of individual plant species, with Spiraea spp., willows (Salix spp.), alders (Alnus spp.), and invasive exotics being the most important. We recommend that shrubland management for birds focus on providing 2 distinct habitats: 1) areas of tall (>1.5 m) vegetation with abundant shrub cover and 2) areas of lower (<1.5 m) vegetation with abundant forb cover but fewer shrubs.
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