Fire Ecology, 2008
Volume 4, Issue 2
Red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) populations are declining range wide, and fire is an important process necessary for creating their habitat throughout their range. In order to evaluate the effect of fire on the density and reproduction of this species, we examined nesting activities of red-headed woodpeckers from 2001 to 2005 in landscapes dominated by fires of different ages. We established six 300 ha to 400 ha sites in recently burned sites (i.e., burned in 2000) and two similarly sized old burn sites (i.e., burned in 1988 and 1991). Reproductive success and productivity (number of fledglings per nest) were higher in old burn sites compared to recent burn sites due to low predation rates in the old burn sites. Nest densities of red-headed woodpeckers were higher in the old burn habitats as compared to the recent burn sites. Based upon this productivity and density information, we developed a conceptual model that describes the potential effects of fire severity upon this species. Because our study sites in the Black Hills, South Dakota, are at the western edge of the red-headed woodpecker’s range, it is unknown whether patterns detected in our study will be representative of patterns found throughout its range in other burned habitats. Long term studies conducted in multiple burns will broaden our understanding of how fire severity might influence the density and reproduction of birds nesting within burned pine forests.