As part of my master's thesis, I studied the effects of the distribution of open-canopy pine forest across large landscapes on a bird endemic to these forests in the southeastern United States. We showed that many small, isolated patches of otherwise suitable habitat were going unused, and that sparrows were much more likely to use really large patches of open-canopy pine forest, such as those found on publicly owned properties. This research spurred additional studies by fellow lab members and collaborators to better understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship (see publications below). The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and other management organizations in the region have used these results to inform land acquisition and other conservation approaches as the southeast becomes increasingly affected by rapid urbanization and land-use change.
Paul J. Taillie, M. Nils Peterson, and Christopher E. Moorman (2015) The relative importance of multiscale factors in the distribution of Bachman's Sparrow and the implications for ecosystem conservation. The Condor, 117(2): 137-146
Bradley A. Pickens, Jeffrey F. Marcus, John P. Carpenter, Scott K. Anderson, Paul J. Taillie, Jaime A. Collazo (2017). The effect of urban growth on landscape-scale restoration for a fire-dependent songbird. Journal of Environmental Management, 191:105-115.
Jason M. Winiarski, Alexander C. Fish, Christopher E. Moorman, John P. Carpenter, Christopher S. DePerno, and Jessica M. Schillaci (2017) Nest-site selection and nest survival of Bachman's Sparrows in two longleaf pine communities. The Condor, 119(3): 361-374
Jason M. Winiarski, Christopher E. Moorman, John P. Carpenter, and George R. Hess (2017) Reproductive consequences of habitat fragmentation for a declining resident bird of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Ecosphere, 8(7)
Bachman's Sparrows often respond aggressively to playback. This individual flew in to within 5 m of me and sang his heart out.
The map above shows our study area in SE North Carolina.
After investigating the effects of a suite of vegetation characteristics and landscape metrics at different scales, we found that grass cover, shrub height, and the amount of potential Bachman's Sparrow habitat within 3 km were most important to whether or not a site was actually occupied by sparrows.