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A decade of emerald ash borer effects on regional woodpecker and nuthatch populations

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Koenig, Walter D.; Liebhold, Andrew M.

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Biological Invasions


The emerald ash borer (EAB) Agrilus planipennis, first detected in 2002 in the vicinity of Detroit, Michigan, USA, has spread throughout much of eastern and midwestern North America as of 2016, resulting in widespread mortality of ash trees in the genus Fraxinus. We investigated the effects of this newly available, exotic food source on populations of six species of largely resident insectivorous birds, including five species of woodpeckers and whitebreasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), using North American Breeding Bird Survey data for breeding season estimates and Audubon Christmas Bird Counts for winter season estimates. We found evidence for relatively modest and variable effects of EAB invasion on the populations of these birds during the breeding season, but highly significant numerical increases during the winter that in several cases appeared to be increasing as the EAB invasion has progressed. Our results confirm that the EAB invasion is resulting in increased populations of several insectivorous birds, primarily during the winter. They also suggest that the numerical response of woodpeckers to EAB may be such that avian predation, which represents a significant, and possibly the largest, morality factor affecting some EAB populations, may continue to increase and help control the EAB epidemic as the invasion continues.


Agrilus planipennis; Emerald ash borer; Forest pests; Invasive species


Koenig, Walter D.; Liebhold, Andrew M. 2017. A decade of emerald ash borer effects on regional woodpecker and nuthatch populations. Biological Invasions. 19(7): 2029-2037.

Last updated on: July 11, 2017