Multi-scale nest-site selection by black-backed woodpeckers in outbreaks of mountain pine beetles

Thomas W. Bonnot, Joshua J. Millspaugh, Mark A. Rumble

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Scopus citations


    Areas of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) outbreaks in the Black Hills can provide habitat for black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus), a U.S. Forest Service, Region 2 Sensitive Species. These outbreaks are managed through removal of trees infested with mountain pine beetles to control mountain pine beetle populations and salvage timber resources. To minimize impacts to black-backed woodpeckers while meeting management objectives, there is a need to identify characteristics of these areas that support black-backed woodpeckers. We examined the habitat associations of this species nesting in areas of beetle outbreaks in the Black Hills, South Dakota in 2004 and 2005. We used an information theoretic approach and discrete choice models to evaluate nest-site selection of 42 woodpecker nests at 3 spatial scales-territory, nest area, and nest tree. At the territory scale (250 m around nest), availability and distribution of food best explained black-backed woodpecker selection of beetle outbreaks versus the surrounding forest. Selection at the territory scale was positively associated with densities of trees currently infested by mountain pine beetles and indices of wood borer (Cerambycidae and Buprestidae) abundance, and was greatest at distances of 50-100 m from the nearest patch of infestation. At the nest-area scale (12.5 m radius around the nest), densities of snags positively influenced nest-area selection. Finally, at the nest-tree scale, aspen (Populus tremuloides) and 3-5-year-old ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) snags were important resources. The association between abundant wood-boring insects and black-backed woodpeckers creates a difficult challenge for forest managers. In the absence of fire, areas of beetle outbreak might serve as the only substantial source of habitat in the Black Hills. Regulating insect populations via salvage logging will reduce key food resources to black-backed woodpeckers during nesting. Therefore, given the relatively infrequent occurrence of large-scale fire in the Black Hills, management should recognize the importance of beetle-killed forests to the long-term viability of the black-backed woodpecker population in the Black Hills.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)220-228
    Number of pages9
    JournalForest Ecology and Management
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Dec 15 2009


    • Discrete choice
    • Habitat
    • Picoides arcticus
    • Post-fire
    • Wood borer


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