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Assessing habitat selection in Spring by male American Woodcock in Maine with a geographic information system

June 9, 2009

Geographic information system (GIS) technology was used to identify habitats available to and used by male American woodcock (Scolopax minor) equipped with radio transmitters--54 in 1987, 51 in 1988, 46 in 1989 at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Maine. Woodcock were monitored from time of capture (25 March-15 April) to 15 June each year. To determine habitat selection by male woodcock, the following habitat characteristics were measured: land cover, age and stocking density of the forest overstory, soil drainage and texture, aspect, and percent slope. Habitat selection was examined as affected by the covariates weather and age-class of woodcock, and among years for diurnal and crepuscular periods of the breeding period. Multivariate techniques that compare use and availability of habitats were not available, so a statistical model was developed to rate importance of multiple habitat characteristics selected by woodcock. The most critical period for woodcock in terms of survival was from arrival to: mid-April. Second-year and after-second-year woodcock did not select different (P > 0.05) habitat types, but they did select different types among years and within breeding intervals (P < 0.05). In years when weather was moderate, woodcock selected young, dense stands of speckled alder (Alnus rugosa) and hardwoods, interspersed with forest openings. Suitable habitat can be maintained by creating an uneven-aged forest managed in even-aged blocks composed of several hardwood species. Managers can now quantify suitable woodcock habitat in a GIS and plan large-scale forest-harvesting strategies using data on several habitat characteristics (e.g., land cover, stand age, stocking density, soil drainage and texture, and aspect).