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Still News: Deer Drive Out Breeding Birds

Bambies need culling

Photo courtesy Shirley Kingsland, Town and Country, MO.

A study published in the journal Conservation Biology illustrates the effects overgrazing by white-tailed deer may be having on the abundance of forest dwelling, migratory bird species.

For nine years, eight Virginia forest plots were studied for species diversity and abundance, four of which were fenced to exclude deer. Bird populations as a whole increased following exclosure of deer, particularly among ground and intermediate canopy species and most notably for 'at risk' migratory species such as Cerulean Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Wood Thrush (all Fish and Wildlife Service Species of Management Concern and Parners In Flight Watch List species), Hooded Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, and Veery. The overall diversity of species remained relatively constant but there was a decline in the abundance of common resident species such as Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, and Northern Cardinal, with a comparable increase in more 'at risk' migratory species such as Ovenbird and Hooded Warbler.

The study echoes the results of a 1994 Pennsylvania U.S. Forest Service study, which showed that populations of birds such as Least Flycatcher, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Indigo Bunting vanished at deer densities exceeding 7.9 deer per km2. Most U.S. states currently report record deer densities, resulting from a lack of predators such as the wolf, and earlier efforts to increase the number of deer for hunting....1

Birds, gardens, homeowners, food pantries, and hunters benefit from culling.

1. American Bird Conservancy. Bird Calls. March, 2001. Vol. 5 No. 1 Page 12.

July 2003


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