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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Introduction


As North America was settled, many once-abundant birds began to disappear. Some were hunted, but habitat loss or alteration was responsible for most losses. Around the turn of the twentieth century, conservationists began efforts to preserve habitats so that birds, especially plumed wading birds, could survive. Legislation was initiated to assist in the conservation of birds and to manage hunted species. Today, many public and private conservation agencies are involved in managing bird populations and their habitats.

Birds are important components of ecosystems. Birds disseminate seeds and prey upon innumerable insect and vertebrate pests. They are involved in energy transfer as they eat and are eaten. Nutrients are also distributed through the movement of birds. Vultures, crows, ravens, and other scavenging birds are important in natural decomposition cycles. Because birds are not isolated components of our natural systems but integral parts of them, it is vital to understand both their roles and their needs.

Management of birds -- whether for human enjoyment, consumptive use, or ecological considerations -- requires data on their biology and habitat use, as well as an understanding of community interactions. Wildlife biologists, foresters, rangeland managers, and land-use planners use comprehensive information on the total community -- including birds -- in habitat management. Information must be available on the species present in the area, their habitat requirements, and how birds will respond to habitat alterations.

The objective of this book is to summarize information on the natural histories and habitat needs of forest and rangeland birds to help managers evaluate the impacts of various actions in different vegetation types. Opportunities can be identified to emphasize birds in management actions and to minimize negative impacts. These data, however, cannot replace the need for on-the-ground evaluations when projects are planned that will alter avian habitats; the natural history and matrix information compiled here must be applied along with local field knowledge.


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