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Habitat Establishment, Enhancement and Management for Forest and Grassland Birds in Illinois

Forest Habitat Guidelines

In the early 1800's, Illinois had nearly 14 million acres of forest habitat (Figure 3); today less than 20% (4 million acres) of this original presettlement forest habitat remains.4 Most of this loss has been through conversion for agriculture, but urbanization, mining, and transportation corridors have also eliminated forest habitat in Illinois. These remaining forest fragments and narrow forested strips are ideal habitat for many native bird species such as Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Downy Woodpeckers, and Blue Jays; species that are relatively common and widespread in Illinois.29

gif -- Illinois distribution map

Figure 3 - The distribution of forest and prairie habitat in Illinois at the time of early European settlement, about 1820.67

However, many other forest bird species such as the Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, and Worm-eating Warbler, require large contiguous blocks of forest habitat to maintain stable populations.30

Management strategies to benefit area-sensitive forest birds center on protecting and maintaining large contiguous forest blocks. Management also should emphasize reducing edge habitat and enlarging existing forest tracts by selective reforestation.

Not all management guidelines will pertain to every forested tract. For example, a landowner or manager may not be interested in timber harvest or be involved in road construction. Use those guidelines that are appropriate for the individual situation.

Some guidelines may appear to pertain to wooded tracts larger than the area being managed. It is important to remember that wildlife which use or may be attracted to a given tract respond to conditions present in that tract and adjacent tracts. If a parcel is part of a larger forested area, neighboring landowners should try to act cooperatively, perhaps through a landowner's association, to manage the large tract as a single owner might. This will always result in the greatest conservation benefit to area-sensitive forest birds.

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