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Short-lived species such as aspen and balsam fir usually form cavities earlier than longer lived trees. Since a major avenue of fungal infection is sprouts, sprouting vigor and the age at which sprouts are produced are important considerations in managing for cavity-producing hardwood trees. Cavity formation in oaks of basal origin is a slow process, but black oak is a good cavity producer as trees approach maturity because although the heartwood decays rapidly the sapwood is resistant Bellrose et al.

Basswood is a good cavity producer because of its sprouting characteristics. Baumgartner , Gysel , Kilham , Erskine and McLaren , and others presented information on tree cavity formation for wildlife species. More information on the role of decay from branch scars, cutting, and animal damage is needed for different species of trees so that positive management for snags may be encouraged.

Removal of snags is also known to reduce populations of some birds. For example, removal of some live timber and snags in an Arizona ponderosa pine forest reduced cavity-nesting bird populations by 50 percent Scott [2].

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Violet-green swallows, pygmy nuthatches, and northern three-toed woodpeckers accounted for much of the decline. A previously high population of swallows dropped 90 percent, and a low woodpecker population was eliminated. On an adjacent plot, where live trees were harvested but snags were left standing, cavity-nesters increased as they did on a plot where live trees and snags were undisturbed. Foresters and recreation managers are now more aware of the esthetic and economic values of nongame wildlife, including cavity-nesting birds.

In summer of the U. For example, in the Arizona-New Mexico Region USDA Forest Service recommended that three good quality snags be retained per acre within feet of forest openings and water, with two per acre over the remaining forest. The policy also requires that provisions be made for continued recruitment of future snags; spike-topped trees with cavities and obvious cull trees should be left for future cavity nesters. Some foresters are now using tags to protect the more suitable snags from fuelwood cutters in high-use areas.

In this book, we have summarized both published data and personal observations on the cavity-nesting birds of North America in an attempt to provide land managers with an up-to-date, convenient source of information on the specific requirements of these birds. Bird illustrations and distribution maps are reprinted with permission of Western Publishing Co. The small range maps indicate where birds are likely to be found during different seasons. Summer or breeding range is identified in red, winter range in blue; purple indicates areas where the species may be found all year.

Red cross-hatching identifies areas where migrating birds are likely to be seen only In spring and fall. Length measurements L are for birds in their natural position, while W indicates wingspan.

Appendices list common names of plants and animals mentioned in the text, with scientific names when they could be determined. Habitat: Black-bellied whistling ducks tree ducks are found regularly in southern Texas and erratically elsewhere. Open woodlands, groves or thicket borders where ebony, mesquite, retama, huisache, and several species of cacti are dominant in freshwater habitat are preferred Oberholser , Meanley and Meanley Range extensions have been facilitated by flooding and impoundments.

Nest: Natural cavities in trees such as live oaks, ebony, willow, mesquite, and hackberry are preferred, but ground nests and nest boxes are sometimes used. A perch near the cavity entrance may also be a factor in nest tree selection. Open and closed cavities are used. Nest cavities average 8. Nest boxes should not be erected unless they are predator proof. Food: Black-bellied whistling ducks are predominantly grazers Rylander and Bolen , but they can dabble and dive for aquatic food.

Of 92 percent plant materials, sorghum and Bermudagrass predominated, with smartweeds, millets, water stargrass, and corn also occurring in one study Bolen and Forsyth In some areas corn and oats are more important in the diet.

About Those Acorns

Habitat: Wood ducks are associated with bottomland hardwood forests where trees are large enough to provide nesting cavities and where water areas provide food and cover requirements McGilvrey Requirements may be met in several important forest types, all of which must be flooded during the early nesting season: 1 southern flood plain, 2 red maple, 3 central flood plain, 4 temporarily flooded oak-hickory, and 5 northern bottomland hardwoods.

Management for cavities more than a half mile from water is not recommended, and dead trees, other than cypress, do not usually contain usable cavities. Good densities of suitable wood-duck cavities have been recorded for many timber types Bellrose Nest boxes are readily used by wood ducks, and their use may increase breeding populations, even if natural cavities are abundant, if predators are excluded. Measurements and placement of wood duck boxes have been well described U.

Food: Wood ducks consume large quantities of acorns, usually in flooded bottoms. Other mast and fleshy fruits also are eaten, as are waste corn and wheat Bellrose Smartweed, buttonbush, bulrush, pondweed, cypress, ash, sweet gum, burweed, and arrow arum seeds are used by breeding birds.

Skunk cabbage, coontail, and duckweed are also food items. Duckweed is also habitat for invertebrates in the diet Grice and Rogers Habitat: The breeding range of the common goldeneye generally coincides with the boreal coniferous forest in North America Johnsgard , Bellrose In a Minnesota study, 87 percent of breeding goldeneyes were found on large, sand-bottomed fish lakes Johnson , while in New Brunswick, this species preferred water areas with marshy shores and adjacent stands of old hardwoods Carter In Maine, nests are found in mature hardwoods adjacent to lakes with rocky shores, hard bottoms, and clear water.

Shoal waters less than 10 feet deep with an irregular shoreline provide brood shelter and protective vegetation necessary for duckling food Gibbs Most nests were in silver maples on wetter sites or American elms on drier sites and aspen in northern conifer forests. Nest trees averaged 23 inches in diameter with cavity dimensions of 8 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep; most entrances were 6 to 40 feet above ground Prince Food: Of stomachs examined by Cottam , crustaceans 32 percent , insects 28 percent , and molluscs 10 percent were primary animal foods total, Crabs, crayfish, amphipods, caddisfly larvae, water boatmen, naiads of dragonflies, damselflies, and mayflies were also found.

Pondweed, wild celery, and seeds of pondweed and bulrushes were important plant materials. Open water is a necessity throughout the range, but frequently goldeneyes favor a dense growth of submerged aquatics such as sago pondweed and widgeon grass. The abundance of aquatic invertebrates may be more important than nesting cavities in determining distribution Johnsgard However, the usual site is in dead stubs or trees such as aspen, Douglas-fir, and ponderosa pine within feet of water Palmer Deserted pileated woodpecker or common flicker cavities enlarged by natural decay are readily used Palmer Cavity entrances from 3.

Nest boxes have been used around high lakes in the Cascade Mountains Bellrose Naiads of dragonflies and damselflies, caddisfly and midge larvae, blue mussels, amphipods, isopods, and crayfish were important animal foods, and pondweeds and wild celery were primary plant foods. Habitat: Buffleheads favor small ponds and lakes in open woodlands Godfrey In British Columbia, most nesting is in the interior Douglas-fir zone while poplar communities are usually used in Alberta, and ponderosa pine types are preferred in California.

Scattered breeding records in Oregon, Wyoming, and Idaho are primarily in subalpine lodgepole pine, and in Alaska Erskine Engelmann spruce and cottonwood stands are used for nesting. Nest: Of nests observed from California to Alaska, were in aspen trees, 44 in Douglas-fir, 14 in balsam poplar and black cottonwood, 12 in ponderosa pine, 11 in poplar, and 16 in a few other coniferous and deciduous trees Palmer Buffleheads prefer unaltered flicker holes in aspen.

Forestry practices that leave stubs near water while clearing away most ground litter and slash that might hinder ducklings from reaching water are to be encouraged. Food: Buffleheads consume mostly animal material. Insects make up 70 percent of summer foods in freshwater habitat. Midge, mayfly, and caddisfly larvae, and naiads of dragonflies and damselflies are also consumed.

Water boatmen are the most widely distributed, important food. Plant food was found in many stomachs but much was fiber and was probably taken while catching aquatic insects.

About Those Acorns | Your Great Outdoors

Pondweed and bulrush seeds were frequently consumed plant items. Dragonfly and damselfly larvae are important in the diet of ducklings in all areas Erskine Habitat: Although hooded mergansers prefer wooded, clear water streams, they also use the wooded shorelines of lakes. Drainage of swamps and river bottoms, removal of snags, and other human activities have been detrimental to this species as they have been to wood ducks.

Hooded mergansers are more easily disturbed by man and far more sensitive to a decline in water quality than are wood ducks. Breeding densities often seem more related to food abundance and availability than to nesting cavities Johnsgard Nest: Cavities at any height may be selected in any species of tree; the size and shape of the cavity are apparently not important Bent Natural cavities chosen are similar to those used by wood ducks but with smaller optimum dimensions.


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Frequent use of nest boxes has been reported in Missouri, Mississippi, and Oregon Bellrose In Oregon, boxes were placed 30 to 50 feet apart in sets of 8 Morse et al. Some of the most southerly nesting records of this species are from wood duck nest boxes Bellrose Food: The food habits of hooded mergansers are not well known, but are apparently more diversified than those of common mergansers. Of stomachs taken from various locations in the United States, rough fishes made up Acorns are sometimes eaten in large quantities.

Frogs, tadpoles, and molluscs such as snails are also consumed. Habitat: Common mergansers prefer cool, clear waters of northern boreal or western forests, although at times they have nested as far south as North Carolina and Mexico. Ponds associated with the upper portions of rivers in northern forested regions are often used Johnsgard As with hooded mergansers, clear water is needed for foraging.

Nest: Although hollow trees are the usual location, ground nests under thick cover or in rock crevices are not uncommon. A wide variety of other locations have been reported such as chimneys, hawk nests, bridge supports, and old buildings. The species of tree used for nesting and the height of the cavity are apparently unimportant Foreman Nest sites are usually close to water Bellrose and are used repeatedly, probably by the same female Palmer Artificial nest boxes have been accepted, especially in Europe. Preferred dimensions are 9.

Food: Programs to reduce populations of this fish-eating merganser have increased trout and salmon production in several areas, at least temporarily. Generally, common mergansers are opportunistic feeders with salmon taken extensively in some areas and suckers, chubs, and eels in others. In warm-water areas, food is usually rough and forage fish such as carp, suckers, gizzard shad, perch, and catfish. In some areas, water plants, salamanders, insects, or molluscs may be important in the diet of this species Palmer Habitat: Turkey vultures soar over most of the forest types of the United States and southern Canada, with the exception of the pine and spruce-fir stands in the extreme northeastern United States.

In search of food this common carrion eater makes use of the forest openings created by roads, powerline rights-of-way, clearcuts, and abandoned fields.

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The smell of carrion around the nest necessitates a well-protected site to lessen predator losses. The nest site is almost always at or near ground level Bent Although nesting sites are commonly located in hollow trees or hollow logs lying on the ground, these vultures will nest on cliffs, in caves, and in dense shrubbery Gingrich , Townsend These birds will return to the same nesting site year after year unless the site has been severely disturbed Jackson , Kempton Food: Turkey vultures are scavengers and carrion-eaters, often hunting along roads where animals have been struck by automobiles.

They feed on snakes, toads, rats, mice, and other available animal matter. Often a dozen or more vultures will gather at and feed on a large carcass. Habitat: The black vulture is found in the southern Great Plains, southeastern pine forests, oak-hickory forests, and intermediate oak-pine forests. It is a more southern species than the turkey vulture.

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Nest: Like turkey vultures, black vultures nest under a wide variety of conditions. They use the nest site as found without adding nesting materials Hoxie , Bent Hollow stumps or standing trees are favorite nesting sites when they are available; otherwise, eggs are laid on the ground, often in dense thickets of palmetto, yucca, or tall sawgrass Bent Nests have been reported in abandoned buildings. Food: This carrion-eater is often found in towns and cities, feeding on animal wastes, scraps, or garbage.

Forests are used primarily for roosting and nesting sites, whereas feeding is usually in more open areas and along highways, where animal carcasses are more plentiful. Habitat: The peregrine falcon is found in tundra regions, northern boreal forests, lodgepole pine and subalpine fir, spruce-fir, southern hardwood-conifer, cold desert shrubs, and prairies—mainly in open country and along streams.