The Oak Woodland Bird Conservation Plan: A Strategy for Protecting and Managing Oak Woodland Habitats and Associated Birds in California
Gregory A. Giusti
The Oak Woodland Bird Conservation Plan (BCP) has been developed by California Partners in Flight (PIF) to guide conservation policy and action on behalf of oak woodland habitats and wildlife, with the goal of supporting the long-term viability and recovery of both native bird populations and other native species. This BCP serves as a repository for information (published and unpublished) on the ecology, distribution, and status of focal bird species, and on historic and current threats, landscape patterns, and conservation measures. It is the first iteration of a continuous process of updating habitat conservation recommendations based on the latest scientific monitoring and research data.
Designing conservation efforts for oak woodland habitats based on the needs of birds is useful because birds occupy a diverse range of niches within oak woodlands: some species nest on the ground while others nest in the cavities of mature trees; some feed primarily on insects while others rely heavily on the acorn mast from year to year. Evidence and experience indicate that by managing for a diversity of birds, diverse oak woodland habitat structure will be maintained and many other elements of terrestrial biodiversity will be conserved.
This BCP addresses the problems facing landbirds in oak woodland habitats throughout California and provides science-based recommendations to both public and private landowners. It outlines specific conservation action items, including detailed management, acquisition, and research recommendations. These action items are designed to heighten our understanding of how the threats and issues surrounding California’s oak woodlands are affecting and will affect the birds that are intimately connected to them.
At over 120 sites throughout California, monitoring data on oak woodland birds have been collected continuously over the past 10 years. This BCP places an emphasis on a suite of 7 bird species, chosen because of their conservation interest to serve as focal species representative of the range of oak habitats in the state. Visit http://www.prbo.org/calpif/htmldocs/oaks.html to view maps of oak woodland habitat coverage, focal species ranges, and PIF monitoring sites in California. Preliminary analyses of the 7 focal species’ habitat requirements reveal the following:
Four of seven focal species have experienced significant population declines, local extirpations, or both. The only species that appears to be significantly and consistently increasing is the Western Scrub-Jay, a bird that adjusts readily to urbanization but is also an important nest predator of many other native bird species.
Loss of habitat or habitat structure (such as dead standing trees, mature trees with cavities, or a shrubby understory component) is implicated as a likely cause of decline and/or other problems for 5 of the 7 focal species.
Accordingly, a series of conservation recommendations are provided, focusing primarily on protection, restoration, and management of habitat that will facilitate and promote natural oak woodland regeneration. Other recommendations focus on the need to promote nest success, by retaining mature oaks in altered landscapes to provide nest cavities and by keeping down the number of native and introduced nest predators. The plan is available at http://www.prbo.org/calpif/plans.html.
prepared and edited by Adina Merenlender and Emily Heaton