Dwarf Mistletoe and Breeding Bird Abundance in Ponderosa Pine Forests

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Abstract

Southwestern dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium vaginatum subsp. cryptopodum) parasitizes ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). It can kill severely infected trees and induce the growth of dense masses of branches that can affect foraging and nesting habitat for wildlife. We tested the hypothesis that higher densities of breeding birds would be correlated with higher levels of southwestern dwarf mistletoe in ponderosa pine forests of Arizona. We estimated densities of 15 species of breeding birds and measured 26 habitat elements in 19 stands. Average dwarf mistletoe ratings (DMR) ranged from 0.0 (uninfested) to 3.7 (severely infested). Although we observed higher densities with higher infestation of dwarf mistletoe for 2 bird species and lower densities for 3 bird species, the effect of dwarf mistletoe on these was minor. Instead, higher snag density, an indirect measure of past mistletoe infestation, was a more important predictor of bird density. With greater snag size or density, the species richness and densities of 3 bird species increased. Because dwarf mistletoe infection can create snags, retaining groups of dwarf mistletoe-infected trees in ponderosa pine stands will provide a continued source of snags, which are important habitat for many wildlife species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-50
Number of pages11
JournalWestern North American Naturalist
Volume77
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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