Influence of surrounding vegetation on woodpecker nest tree selection in oak forests of the Upper Midwest, USA

Collette L. Adkins Giese, Francesca J. Cuthbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This study examined the influence of forest context on woodpecker nest tree selection, which has implications for forest managers leaving trees during timber harvest for cavity nesting birds. We surveyed habitat variables in 11.3 m radius subplots centered on 165 active woodpecker nest trees and 144 randomly selected points in oak forests of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin in 1997-1998. Forward stepwise sequential F-tests indicated that the number of potential nest trees and basal area (BA) of dead elms were the most important variables in distinguishing nest sites and random sites. Discriminant function analysis correctly classified 71% of the observations. However, a comparison of nest sites only to those random sites containing a tree likely suitable for nesting showed no differences. This suggests that nest tree has a greater influence in nest site selection than does surrounding vegetation. Yellow-bellied sapsucker nest trees were surrounded by a significantly higher BA of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and density of mast-producing trees than the nest trees of the downy, hairy, red-bellied, red-headed, and pileated woodpeckers, and the northern flicker. However, we found no interspecific differences among downy, hairy, red-bellied, and red-headed woodpeckers. This study is significant because it indicates forest management for cavity nesting birds should focus on providing suitable nest trees within the larger forest context; vegetation immediately surrounding nest trees may have minimal influence on woodpecker nest tree selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-534
Number of pages12
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the fieldwork was provided by the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Tax Checkoff and the Reinvest in Minnesota Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program. Additional support came from the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, a Gordon Gullion Scholarship, the Dayton–Wilkie Natural History Fund, Bell Museum of Natural History, and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Partial funding for the project was appropriated for the Minnesota Forest Bird Diversity Initiative by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Environmental Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources. We thank S. Gale, M. Friberg, and M. Knutson for assistance in the field study. G. Oehlert and C. Bingham provided statistical advice. D. Andersen and G. Niemi provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cavity nesting birds
  • Dead standing trees
  • Nest trees
  • Woodpeckers


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