Clearcutting is the preferred timber harvest method in bottomland hardwood forests because it is most likely to result in regeneration of preferred species. However, clearcutting generally has negative impacts on forest birds. Patch-retention harvesting may provide similar silvicultural benefits, but its effects on birds are unknown. We surveyed breeding birds in uncut control, clearcut, and patch-retention treatment areas (11–13 ha) for one season prior to harvest and two seasons postharvest in a bottomland hardwood forest in the Lower Coastal Plain of southeastern South Carolina. Bird observations recorded along line transects were analyzed using the software EstimateS to estimate species richness and program Distance to estimate densities. We found greater species richness and bird densities in the patch-retention treatment than in the clearcut in both postharvest seasons. We detected no forest-interior birds in the clearcut after the harvest, but by the second postharvest season in the patch-retention treatment, the density of forest-interior birds had returned to approximately half of its preharvest level. Thus, based on density response, patch-retention harvesting appears to be less detrimental to forest birds than clearcutting. However, additional work is needed to determine whether retained patches influence avian survival and productivity.
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