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Breeding Bird Community of a Suburban Habitat Island: Historic Bethabara Park, Winston-Salem, NC

Thorington, Katherine K., Brand, Kimberly B.
Southeastern naturalist 2014 v.13 no.4 pp. 770-801
Hylocichla mustelina, Piranga, Sitta, birds, breeding, breeding season, canopy, climate change, community structure, habitats, introduced species, landscapes, migratory behavior, monitoring, nests, oases, piedmont, reproductive success, shrubs, suburban areas, tropics, woodlands, North Carolina
Habitat islands, corridors, and patches within the urban—rural mosaic provide important resources for migratory and resident species and may be crucial for breeding success and survival. In suburban areas, corridor width and patch size are strongly correlated with community composition. We assessed the breeding bird community in the Historic Bethabara Park Complex (HBPC) by territory mapping during April–July 2009 and 2010. HBPC is a 77-ha habitat island in Winston-Salem (Forsyth County), NC. We detected 109 bird species in HBPC, including 60 for which we documented at least 1 breeding territory in either year. Each year we found territories of 58 species; 57 species were the same between years. The majority of birds encountered in this study nest in the canopy, in shrubs, or in cavities. The breeding community was roughly split between migrants (32) and residents (34) and included 3 exotic species. We documented territories for 10 woodland interior specialists including Hylocichla mustelina (Wood Thrush), Seiurus aurocapilla (Ovenbird), and Piranga olivacea (Scarlet Tanager). Two of these observed bird species—Wood Thrush and Sitta pusilla (Brown-headed Nuthatch)—are designated as US birds of conservation concern by Partners in Flight (PIF). Eight of the species we documented are considered by PIF to be species of conservation concern in the Piedmont Region during the breeding season and and 3 of these are common species in steep decline: Chaetura pelagica (Chimney Swift), Megaceryle alcyon (Belted Kingfisher), and Colaptes auratus (Northern Flicker). HBPC is historically and currently species-rich and has a community composition similar to that seen in other NC Piedmont studies. We recommend periodic monitoring as the local landscape and climate change. Further research is needed to determine to what degree the park complex functions as an oasis or population sink for the bird community, especially for forest-interior obligates, Neotropical migrants, and species of concern.