How Do Birds See the Landscape?
Time and money are in limited supply in wildlife conservation work. In an effort to predict where birds are likely to nest; that is, to evaluate a patch of land's conservation value, Lawler and Edwards looked at landscape patterns in the aspen forests of the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah1. They located nests for the four species of interest, northern flickers, red-naped sap suckers, mountain chickadees, and tree swallows, then they recorded not only the nearby vegetation but also larger patterns in the surrounding landscape. For three of the four species they were able to predict pretty successfully the kinds of habitat these birds would choose to nest in the following year. This is a more detailed layer of information than just saying flickers like aspen or spotted owls like old growth and it compliments an ongoing, wide scale research effort in wildlife conservation.
We spoke with Dr. Lawler about his research and how it may eventually be applied to conservation work.