Publication Details

Fire ecology and bird populations in eastern deciduous forests

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Artman, Vanessa L.; Hutchinson, Todd F.; Brawn, Jeffrey D.; Brawn, Jeffrey D.

Year Published



Studies in Avian Biology. 30: 127-138.


Eastern deciduous forests are located across the central portion of eastern North America and provide habitat for a wide diversity of bird species. The occurrence of fi re in the region has been associated with the presence of humans for over 10,000 yr. While pre-European fire regimes are poorly understood, fire is widely thought to have promoted and maintained large expanses of oak forest, woodland, and savanna documented in original land surveys. Forest composition is gradually shifting from fire-tolerant oaks (Quercus spp.) to other species (e.g., maples [Acer spp.]) and suppression of fi re has been implicated as a primary cause. Prescribed fire has been used successfully to restore and maintain oak savannas and has been advocated to improve the sustainability of oak forests. Fire ecology research has addressed short-term effects of prescribed fire on habitat structure, breeding bird populations, and nesting productivity. In the short term, prescribed fire reduces habitat suitability for forest-interior birds that nest on the ground and in low shrubs but provides more favorable conditions for disturbance-dependent birds associated with savannas, woodlands, and early-successional forest. The use of prescribed burning requires tradeoffs in terms of management and conservation because some bird species benefit while others are negatively affected, depending on the degree to which fire changes habitat features. There is a critical need for long-term studies to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on bird populations in the eastern deciduous forest region.


eastern deciduous forest; fire history; fire suppression; forest-interior birds; maple; oak; prescribed fire; savanna


Artman, Vanessa L.; Hutchinson, Todd F.; Brawn, Jeffrey D. 2005. Fire ecology and bird populations in eastern deciduous forests. Studies in Avian Biology. 30: 127-138.

Last updated on: March 28, 2017