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Early successional riparian vegetation is important for western Yellow-billed Cuckoo nesting habitat

March 16, 2021

Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Cuckoo; Coccyzus americanus) populations continue to decline in the western United States despite efforts to increase availability of riparian forest. Cuckoos have unique breeding habitat requirements such as large contiguous tracts of riparian forest (>80 ha), large estimated home ranges (20–90 ha), and dense vertical structure around the nest. However, local habitat-scale features may be missing in landscapes of predominantly mature riparian forest that may need to be specifically managed for nesting. We used historical nest data (n = 95) from the South Fork Kern River Valley, California, from 1985 to 1996 to identify important nest site features that may be missing in current riparian forests. We found that increased canopy cover and vertical structure at all levels in the canopy greatly increased the probability of Cuckoo nesting. With smaller estimated effect sizes, the probability of Cuckoo nesting increased with increasing willows and forbs and smaller mean tree dbh. Cuckoos selected plots with disproportionately high percent willow cover relative to availability plots regardless of whether sites had low or high percent willow available. Counts of fledged young were positively related to willow percentage. No vegetation variable influenced daily survival rate which was 0.991 (LCI = 0.980, UCI = 0.996). Overall 17-day nest success was likely high (0.86, LCI = 0.71, UCI = 0.93). In the absence of natural processes that create early successional stage forest, specific management for early successional stage forest is needed to increase the probability of Cuckoo nesting and nest productivity.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Early successional riparian vegetation is important for western Yellow-billed Cuckoo nesting habitat
DOI 10.1111/rec.13376 </b>
Authors P.J. Wohner, S.A. Laymon, J.E. Stanek, Sammy L. King, R.J. Cooper
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70229163
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta

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