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Monitoring Wood Thrush Habitat using Geographical Information
Written By: Stephen Clark
During the spring and early
summer of the U.S. eastern forests,
the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla
mustelina) can be observed hopping
around the forest floor probing ground
shrubs for insects. This native
songbird, which was once significantly
abundant in the United States, is now
on a steady decline in numbers.
Research shows this decline to be linked to increased forest fragmentation (which
decreases the deciduous forest interior habitat where they succeed most) and the
increase of nest parasitism caused by Brown Headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) (“Wood
Habitat fragmentation is the alteration of a habitat to where it is broken down into
various smaller more isolated areas. This process ultimately decreases the interior and
increases edge habitat. An increase of edge habitat encourages invasive species of
herbaceous plants and animals. Animals such as the brown headed cowbirds are
attracted to new edge habitat where they can invade habitat that was once interior.
When forests become fragmented, viable
habitat of the Wood Thrush then become
vulnerable to predation by chipmunks,
racoons, blue jays, American crows,
black rat snakes, brown-headed
cowbirds, squirrels, great horned owls,
sharp-shinned hawks, and house cats.
I recommend the use of
Geographical Information Systems to aid
in measuring and monitoring of Wood
Thrush habitat throughout the extent of its migratory range. GIS programming will allow
us to measure the amount of forest fragmentation in viable Wood Thrush habitat as well
as pinpoint habitat patches large enough to support healthy Wood Thrush populations.
Literature Review:
Past studies, conducted and published from the University of Delaware’s Ecology
Woods by Weinberg and Roth (1998), show the direct relationship between Wood
Thrush ecology and habitat area. When habitat area decreases so does the productivity
of the Wood Thrush. In smaller more confined habitats (< 2 hectares) less than 51% of
females’ time produce more than 2 offspring. Whereas in larger habitats (~15 hectares)
females produced a lot more young and have proven to be more successful. Studies
also show that larger habitat patches have lower predation rates in comparison to
smaller fragmented areas. Result also showed that in larger habitat patches Wood
Thrush nest were less predated and parasitized by cowbirds (Weinberg and Roth 1998).
Cornell Lab of Ornithology concluded from their research that conservation
efforts for the Wood Thrush are of little concern though numbers are significantly
decreasing. But when you put all facts in perspective, population surveys (1966-2009)
has the U.S. Wood Thrush population decline at a consistent rate of 2% per year.
Meaning that population have decreased by about 50% since the initial monitoring
process began. In due time as human development continuous to increase the home
range of this species will gradually begin to decrease maybe even more than 2% a year.
Conservation practices and efforts will allow Wood Thrush the greatest possible
success in the future.
Data Requirements:
As previously stated GIS software will be of great use when monitoring Wood
Thrush Habitat of the U.S eastern forests.
The goal is to attain geographic data on the
amounts of vegetation present throughout
the Wood Thrushes migratory range. With
the help of Landsat imaging when can create
NDVI maps of this criteria. From these maps
GIS analyst tools can provide the best habitat
situation in relation to patch size. Seeing as
Wood Thrush thrive in areas with a great
deal of interior, the use of a Raster Calculator
tool will help locate patches with areas
greater than the suggested minimum habitat size of 20 hectares (Weinberg and Roth
1998). By locating these larger habitat patches using GIS, more time can be spent on
research and conservation efforts.
Anticipated Results:
From the use of GIS I expect to locate large habitat patches throughout the
Wood Thrush migratory range. Maps created from the GIS software will provide viable
forest fragments that can be if benefit with increase Wood Thrush biodiversity. I
expected for research groups to use these map and determine whether these large
fragmented areas provide a positive situation for Wood Thrush too inhabit. If the land
shows to be suitable necessary funding and conservation effort should be generously
apportioned to Wood Thrush habitat.
Policy Application:
Research on the Wood Thrush will cause for their habitat to be better monitored
and protected. State agencies, local authorities, and USDA will have set provisions on
the upkeep of this species. In addition to federal and state policy. On a local level
volunteer programs, schools, and social groups will play a huge role in educating the
public on the importance of forest degradation, fragmentation, and wildlife. They will
express to all how much we have an impact on nature as well has how much protecting
it will have an impact on us.
5 year plan
50,000 x 5
Education Aspect
No Cost
Resources/ Volunteer
No Cost
Estimated Total
Cost =
Monitoring Services
January 2014
January 2019
Collect GIS Data &
Create Mapping Images
January 2019
April 2019
Use Map: Survey
May 2019
August 2019
GIS Software
GIS Software Analyst
Indirect Costs
(5 year)*
Work Cited
Weinberg, H.J. 1998. Forest Area and Habitat Quality for Nesting
Woodthrushes. Auk 115: 879-889.
“Wood Thrush”. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell University.
2013. 5 December 2013. Web