"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dead trees are lifesavers for birds

Nuttall's woodpeckers are among the many species that nest in dead trees. Photo by Tom Grey
In case you missed my column in today's O.C. Register, here it is:

       Gillian Martin would like everyone to know just how important a dead tree can be.
Martin, a volunteer naturalist, is spreading the word about the benefits of keeping dying trees, called snags, in place. Instead of reaching for a chain saw, we should consider the benefits of saving them, she says.
      “Dead trees and tree limbs provide vital habitat for cavity-nesting birds and other wildlife,” said Martin, of Laguna Niguel.
      About 84 species of birds in North America depend on dead trees for nesting, she said. About 40 of these rely on woodpeckers, a family of birds known as primary excavators, to make holes in these rotting trees. In Southern California such primary excavators include Nuttall’s, downy and hairy woodpeckers and the northern flicker. When woodpeckers abandon their nest sites, secondary cavity nesters such as tree swallows, Western bluebirds, mountain chickadees and oak titmice inherit them.
      “The removal of too many snags results in competition among the species and fewer breeding opportunities for these cavity nesters,” Martin said.
       Snags also provide benefits beyond nesting. Unlike live trees, snags provide unobstructed views for birds of prey when hunting. Other species use them during displays of courtship and for defending their territories. A dead tree also returns nutrients to the soil when allowed to die in place.
       To promote the preservation of dead tree limbs and snags, Martin developed the Cavity Conservation Initiative, a program established in conjunction with the Southern California Bluebird Club. As part of the program, she brings the message to local schools and community organizations. As an environmental activist, she has also been educating land managers and officials from golf courses, county and state parks and the Forest Service on the value of snag retention.
       “A securely rooted dead tree can often be safely retained by reducing its height and weakest branches,” she said. Cutting the tree down to as low as 6 feet and shortening the limbs to 18 inches is enough to provide valuable habitat. Dead limbs need to be at least 8 inches in diameter to be useful to cavity nesters.
      “The project requires perseverance,” she said. “But the word is definitely spreading.”
       Martin recently returned from the International Woodpecker Conference in Spain, where the scientific studies presented underscored the repercussions of lost habitat.
      “I learned that whether one is managing a forest, woodland or urban park the issues are the same,” she said.
       For more information, go to cavityconservation.com.

1 comment:

  1. Would like to see your organization reach out strongly to uninformed, &/or ignorant, HOAs’ property management co’s., property managers, their “landscape” vendor “gardeners,” et al, who do NOT seem to understand (or care about) the concept that Spring brings “baby season,” & that any pruning, cutting branches, shrubs, trees, etc., should definitely be halted during “baby season” WITHOUT QUESTION! For some reason, this particular “segment of society” just does NOT seem to understand this concept, destroying our precious wildlife year after year after year. “They” continually harass the wildlife to no end, not to mention separating little families, needlessly kill the babies, etc…. Someone needs to stress the importance to this group of society to respect & pay attention to wildlife whose territory(-ies) we humans have invaded & continue to do so on an unprecedented basis. It’s a very sad state of environmental affairs for our precious wildlife since the legal lobbyist attorneys’ organizations’ implementation of dictatorial regime HOAs who “know it all.” The innocent, disadvantaged wildlife have no one to advocate for their “rights to life” against the unscrupulous individuals who should be the guardians of the earth & wildlife! ( ')>