What can a hummingbird reveal about the health of a forest?
Conservationists and forest-products companies will try to answer this question later this year in southwestern Oregon, on private forest lands in the Klamath Mountains. There, a two-year project is under way to assess and enhance forest management for more than 15 bird species of special concern — including Rufous Hummingbird.
The species is relatively common and widespread, but its population has declined by two percent every year between 1968 and 2013, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In the Klamath Mountains, the annual declines are more than three percent. Research points toward two trends: habitat loss and climate change, particularly recent droughts in the West, which reduce flowering of trees and shrubs.
Once natural fires disturbed the forests and triggered cycles of new growth. Centuries of fire suppression, however, have prevented the forest from regenerating naturally, depriving birds and other creatures of the different stages of forest habitat they need to thrive.
Now a new source of disturbance will play the role fire played traditionally. As part of the Klamath Mountains portion of the Bringing Back the Forest Birds partnership, scientists and managers will work with companies that participate in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to assess what they’re already doing to benefit birds and identify opportunities to do more.
When managed with an eye toward biodiversity, working forest lands can create conditions that many birds need for successful breeding, migration, and wintering. Rufous Hummingbird and other focal bird species, in turn, play a crucial role in helping forest-products companies manage their acreage sustainably.
The Bringing Back the Forest Birds project is a collaboration among American Bird Conservancy, SFI, Klamath Bird Observatory, Weyerhaeuser, Hancock Timber Resources Group, and the National Council on Air and Stream Improvement.
A version of this article appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of BirdWatching.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.
View reader photos of Rufous Hummingbird.
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