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Region 6 White-headed Woodpecker Monitoring 2011. Monitoring Strategy. Cooperators. USFS Pacific Northwest Region Oregon / Washington. Klamath Bird Observatory. Ecology Program has supporting role in this region-wide project. Overview. WHWO Life History & Importance Project Overview

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Presentation Transcript

Monitoring Strategy


  • USFS Pacific Northwest Region
  • Oregon / Washington

Klamath Bird Observatory

  • Ecology Program has supporting role in this region-wide project


  • WHWO Life History & Importance
  • Project Overview
  • & Questions Asked
  • Ecology Program Role
  • Protocols & Review of First Field Season

Summary of Existing Knowledge

  • May be one of the least studied woodpeckers
  • Life History
  • Food Habits
  • Range and Distribution
  • Population Trends
  • Habitat Use
  • Ecological Considerations

Life History

  • Year-round residents
  • Monogamous
  • Cavity nesting birds
  • Produce single clutch per year of 4-5 eggs
  • Both parents brood and feed young
  • Fledge in 26 days, usually late June-early July
  • Home range averages about 800 acres
  • Reported reproductive success ranges from 23 to 85% (Frenzel, Kozma, Forristal)
  • Adult survival estimated at 65% (Frenzel)
  • Nest success tied to presence of large pine (Hollenbeck et al. 2009)

Food Habits

  • Primarily forage on live trees, rarely on snags
  • Feed on insects from May to September – ants, beetles, cicadas
  • Feed on ponderosa or sugar pine seeds from late summer through the winter
  • Occasionally sapsuck in early spring
  • Frequently drink water

Biology and Habitat Use

  • White-headed woodpeckers (WHWO) are strongly associated with open, dry ponderosa pine forest habitat. Historically, fire maintained open habitat for this species.
    • Generally considered old-growth associates, but Kozma (Yakama Nation) has recently found that they may be using younger forests as well.
  • Also associated with post-fire habitat. They occur in higher densities and/or reproduce more successfully in post-fire habitat than in other habitats. WHWO is associated with mixed severity burn areas.
  • WHWO use large snags (primarily ponderosa pine) for nesting and roosting.
  • WHWO feed almost exclusively on ponderosa and sugar pine seeds during fall and winter, and mature pine produce a more reliable seed crop.

Other Woodpeckers Along Transects

  • A number of other species observed as well:
  • Pileated Woodpecker
    • Requires highly decomposed wood, ants
  • Hairy Woodpecker
    • More likely to drill for food
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
    • Eats sap, phloem, ants
  • Northern Flicker
    • Ground foraging
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
    • Post-stand replacement
  • Lewis’ Woodpecker
    • Flycatching of aerial insects

Range and Distribution

  • British Columbia – very rare
  • Idaho – scarce and patchy distribution
  • Washington – rare
  • E and NE Oregon – uncommon
  • SW Oregon - scarce and patchy distribution
  • California – common in Sierras
  • S California – different subspecies P. a. gravirostras - common

From Garret et al. 1996


Habitat Use

  • General Habitat Description:
    • Ponderosa pine or dry mixed conifer forests dominated by ponderosa pine and/or sugar pine and Douglas-fir
    • Large mature pines
    • Nest in open forests with sparse understory vegetation
    • Burned forest – in areas with 60% low severity or unburned (Wightman and Saab 2008)
    • High interspersion/juxtaposition of open and closed ponderosa pine forest patches (Hollenbeck et al. 2009)
    • 71% of landscape with < 40% canopy closure (Wightman and Saab 2008)

Habitat Use

  • Nesting Habitat:
    • Stands with <40% canopy closure, often in openings created by silvicultural treatments or fire
    • Slopes < 20% and lower slope positions
    • Nest sites w/ >=12 large pines (>21”dbh) had highest nest success (Frenzel)

Nest Tree Characteristics


Habitat Use

  • Roosting Habitat (Dixon 1995):
    • Most roosts in multi-layerd stands
    • Higher canopy closure, average 57%
    • Higher density of large live trees (avg. 16/acre) than nest sites
  • Foraging Habitat(Dixon 1995):
    • Foraging stands averaged 65% canopy closure
    • Forage primarily in live large ponderosa pine trees
    • Sapsucking occurred in dense stands of smaller trees

Population Trends

  • Breeding Bird Survey trends :
    • Stable to increasing range-wide
    • Washington and Oregon – trends not significant and credibility measure was “very imprecise” – 3-5% per year change would not be detected
  • Population declines and range reductions:
    • Central Oregon – comparisonofdensity estimates between Dixon (1995) and Frenzel and Popper (1998) indicate a 20% decline in the density of WHWO in about 5 years
    • Central Oregon, reproductive success of WHWO has been too low to offset adult mortality, thus the population is declining to the point that occupancy of known territories steadily decreased over a 6 year study period (Frenzel 2004)
    • WHWO no longer occur at some sites in the northern Blue Mountains where they used to be relatively common (Bull 1980 and Nielsen-Pincus 2005)

Management Concerns

  • Management Indicator Species, Regional Forester’s Sensitive Species, BLM Special Status Species, and a species of concern in Forest Plan Revisions
  • Forest management concerns:
    • Fires create habitat and thus help to restore habitat for this species. Salvage can reduce snag densities to levels which eliminate “restored” habitat
    • Dry forest habitat is the target of most restoration and fuels reduction projects that have the potential to either have beneficial or negative effects on habitat:
      • Create open habitat
      • Reduce risk of loss of large pine habitat
      • However -especially important is the potential loss of large ponderosa pine trees and snags due to prescribed fire.

Threats to WHWO

  • #1 - Habitat loss

Causes of Decline: Late-seral, single-story, Ponderosa Pine Forests

81 percent decline from historical conditions basin-wide

  • Timber harvest:
    • Replaced late-seral forests with mid-seral forests
    • Harvest of large ponderosa pine
  • Fire exclusion:
    • Shift to more shade-tolerant species Douglas-fir and white/grand fir
    • Shift to multi-storied, dense stands

Threats to WHWO

  • Predators
    • A main cause of nest failure appears to be predation by small mammals (Frenzel 2004)
    • Increase in shrub cover and down wood cover increases nest predator populations (Smith and Maguire 2004)

Golden mantled ground squirrel

- survival and densities higher in areas with higher down wood volume

Yellow-pine chipmunk - densities are

Higher where there is greater total

shrub and live bitterbrush cover


Other factors affecting WHWO

  • Disease – loss of white pine and sugar pine – alternate food for white-headed woodpeckers
  • Competition for nest sites
  • Harvest units as ecological traps?
  • Increased road density results in increased loss of snags

Conservation Assessment for White-headed Woodpecker

  • Regional Goals:
  • Summarize existing knowledge
  • Identify important information gaps and uncertainties
  • Define and map habitat
  • Identify population and habitat core areas
  • Offer management considerations to better manage the species
  • Develop a monitoring strategy

Monitoring Strategy

  • Monitoring & Research Approach
    • Broad-scale occupancy monitoring - designed to provide reliable, standardized data on the distribution, site occupancy, and population trends for white-headed woodpeckers across their range in OR and WA.
    • Treatment effectiveness monitoring – designed to assess effect of stand-level treatments on woodpecker occupancy and nest survival.
    • Validation monitoring – designed to validate & refine habitat suitability models of nesting white-headed woodpeckers in burned and unburned forests.
    • Fuels data collection – designed to support modeling of fire-climate impacts on historic and future habitat suitability

Gather existing location data on WHWO

White-headed woodpecker locations in Oregon and Washington


FS NRIS Wildlife


Natural Heritage

EBird Database

Saab – Birds & Burns



mapping white headed woodpecker habitat
Mapping white-headed woodpecker habitat
  • Nesting Habitat Mapping Criteria
  • Based on GNN data
  • Basic
    • Habitat Type: Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, western white pine dominated
  • Green forests
    • Habitat Type: Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, western white pine dominated
    • Canopy cover: >=10% and < 40%
    • Large trees: 8 pines/acre >= 21 inches
  • Post-fire
    • Habitat Type: Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, western white pine
    • Pre-fire canopy cover: >=10% and < 40%
    • Large trees: 8 pines (live or dead)/acre >= 21 inches
    • Fire severity: low severity only
    • Age of fire: fires since 2000

Monitoring Strategy

  • Regional broad-scale occupancy and distribution monitoring
    • 30 transects through region
    • Play-back survey at point count stations
    • 2,700 m random transects w/ 10 point counts each
    • Transects within pine-dominated landscapes

Monitoring Strategy

  • More intensive study areas
    • Similar protocol, but more intensive
    • 2 field crews managed by Vicki Saab
      • Pringle Falls
      • Chemult

Monitoring Strategy

  • This broad-scale monitoring strategy was designed to answer the following questions at a Regional scale:
    • What are the spatial distribution and occupancy rates of white-headed woodpecker across the dry forest landscape?
    • What are trends in distribution and occupancy?
    • What key habitat characteristics are associated with dry forest species? This information will be used to refine habitat associations and treatment prescriptions (e.g., canopy closure, live tree and snag density, and tree size)

Ecology Program Involvement

  • Ecology Program has supporting role in this region-wide project
    • Transect establishment and data collection
      • Area 4 (Central Oregon) was responsible for installing 12 permanent transects in 2011
      • NE Oregon and Eastern Washington also have transects
      • Currently intend to revisit transects for 6 years
      • Woodpecker callbacks were conducted at all 12 transects in 2011
      • Vegetation measurements were done on 4 transects in 2011
  • Vicki Saab and Kim Mellen-McLean are managing and analyzing data

Monitoring Strategy

  • Woodpecker Callbacks
    • In Central Oregon
      • 12 transects
      • 10 points per transect
      • 2 visits per point between April 20-July 7
      • 4.5 minutes
      • 2 people

Monitoring Strategy

  • Woodpecker Callbacks
    • Issues
      • Transect establishment
      • Time sensitive
      • Weather dependent
      • Road closures
      • Long distances between transects
      • Long days

Monitoring Strategy

  • Playbacks
  • 2 people
  • 2 months
  • 5 min/point
  • Vegetation
  • Original estimate was 1 week per transect for 2 people
  • Highly variable depending on point
  • Avg would be 1 week for 4 people
  • Thanks Amy and Nikola!

Monitoring Strategy

  • Vegetation
  • 1/3 of the transects each year
  • Trees, saplings, seedlings, snags, stumps, shrub cover, DWD, biomass estimates, litter and duff depths

Monitoring Strategy

Vegetation Data Collection

Bird and Burns methodology


Monitoring Strategy

Vegetation Data Collection

Bird and Burns methodology

  • Trees
    • 2,6,20m belts
    • DBH, ht, crown ht
  • Snags
      • 2,20m belts
      • DBH, ht
  • Down wood
    • Along each transect
  • Saplings
    • 2 4m radius circles
  • Litter depth
  • Photoloads
      • Ends of transects 1 & 3

Monitoring Strategy

Photoload sampling technique (Keane and Dickinson 2007)


Monitoring Strategy

  • Fuels data collection
  • Designed to support modeling of fire-climate impacts on historic and future habitat suitability
  • Part of RMRS FireBGC v2 simulation modeling project
  • Estimate modern fuel loading using photoload sampling technique (Keane and Dickinson 2007):
    • Woody, shrub, herbaceous fuel loadings
    • Duff and litter fuel loading
    • Canopy base height and tree height