Clearcutting often benefits game birds because it opens the forest floor which, in turn, exposes seed, promotes fruit production of small shrubs, increases the quantity and variety of forbs and grasses, and provides cover for edge and ground-nesting birds.
Young, successional stages are important to breeding woodcock for courtship and nesting. In eastern Maine, courting male woodcock habitat was improved by creating clearings 5 ac in size (Sepik et al. 1986). Habitat characteristics were measured near 89 nests of woodcock on Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Calais, Maine by McAuley et al. (1996). Forty-four of the 89 nests were in clearcuts £ 10 years old. Because nests often are associated with clearcutting and early successional stands of alders and shrub species, the authors felt it was essential to provide these habitats for nesting birds.
Wintering woodcock frequently use older forests, but they also are associated closely with regenerating stands. Woodcock in eastern Texas were strongly attracted to pine seedling and sapling habitats established following clearcuttings (Tappe and Whiting 1989). Wintering woodcock in the Delta region of Mississippi (Roberts et al. 1985) used regeneration stands more often than other seral stages of bottomland hardwoods. Significant numbers also used mature stands, but few were found in pole stands or cottonwood plantations.
Ruffed Grouse make heavy use of regenerating stands created through clearcutting. In Minnesota, commercial clearcutting, by opening the forest, was an effective substitute for fire in improving aspen stands for grouse during winter (Gullion 1988). Boyd (1990) found that regenerating clearcuts in the Southern Appalachians of Tennessee were utilized by grouse more heavily than expected. He also found that mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets were heavily utilized. The dense cover in young stands may afford grouse protection from nest predators. Grouse nests located in the dense shrub growth of 4-year-old clearcuts were found to be least susceptible to predation by crows and bluejays in central Pennsylvania (Yahner and Cypher 1987).
A series of small clearcuts were made in pitch pine-oak pole timber stands over a 10-year period in central Pennsylvania. Out of 15 ruffed grouse broods found on the entire area surveyed, 12 of them were on the managed stands (Sharp and English 1952).
The principal quail food plants (forbs and legumes) generally are most abundant the first year or two after clearcutting. In the Piedmont of Virginia, Felix et al. (1986) found that by the third growing season, plantations established following clearcutting became deficient in seed-producing plants. There have been similar findings in studies of clearcutting and/or site preparation in pine habitat in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina (Devet and Hopkins 1967), in Florida (Moore and Swindell 1981), the lower Coastal Plain of North Carolina (Robinson and Barkalow 1979), the Piedmont of Georgia (Cushwa et al. 1969, Brunswig and Johnson 1972), and in Mississippi (Hurst and Palmer 1988).
Other practices often associated with clearcutting can further alter the abundance of quail foods or other aspects of habitat. For example, spring burning can immediately increase insect abundance during summer and seed production during fall and winter (Hurst 1972, Simpson 1972, Landers 1981). A study of quail populations in burned and unburned stands in Florida found that quail numbers were positively correlated to the amount of bare ground, a feature that is rare in most undisturbed scrub and slash pine flatwoods (Breininger and Smith 1992). Witt et al. (1992) in a study comparing chemical and mechanical site preparation treatments in the Piedmont of Georgia, found that quail foods were most abundant on the Arsenal and mechanical treatments. Cushwa and Jones (1969) found that chopping two clearcut pine stands to prepare pine seedbeds in the Piedmont of South Carolina increased many quail food plants by twice the number found in an adjacent uncut, unchopped area.
Turkeys have been reported to use a variety of forest ages and compositions. When available, older age classes are sometimes preferred. For example, during a 5-year study period in oak-hickory forests of West Virginia, Pack et al. (1980) found a majority of broods reared under a forest overstory, not in young, open clearcuts. Conversely, 95% of turkey hens with broods in east central Mississippi were associated with pine plantations, most of which followed clearcuttings (Smith et al. 1990). They also found that creating edge in pine habitats enhanced turkey productivity by increasing nesting success. In eastern Texas, forest openings created by logging enhanced turkey nesting habitat (Campo et al. 1989). After hatching, turkey hens with broods selected pole timber in upland areas.
Broods greater than 30 days old selected sawtimber stands in bottomland areas. All turkey broods selected stands with low timber stocking, low densities of midstory trees with herbaceous ground cover, and those that had been control burned. In South Carolina, turkey hens preferred to nest in young (£ 10-year-old) clearcuts, seed tree cuts, and mixed uncut stands (Still and Baumann 1990). In Alabama, food items used primarily in summer were most available in pine plantations (Kennamer et al. 1980). Pine plantations were used seasonally but not in as high a proportion as other available habitats. Thus, active, diversified forest management, including clearcutting, has been shown to enhance habitat for wild turkeys.
Although we found no published papers specifically reporting the influence of clearcutting on mourning doves, we received 3 accounts from George Hurst (personal communication) regarding dove feeding activity and food abundance on 3 loblolly pine regeneration cuts in Mississippi. All sites after cutting were intensively site prepared by shearing, raking (windrowing), disking and bedding with one site having Velpar® applied and the third site both Velpar® and Pronone®. In the earliest cutting (1970's), at the end of the first growing season, hundreds of mourning doves were observed feeding. In the second clearcut, during the fall of 1981 following cutting, hundreds of doves daily used the tract for feeding. In the third tract during the fall (1982 and 1983) after cutting, from 3,000 to 4,000 doves used the area. Dove crops examined were filled with wooly croton. Other seeds found abundant included sunflower, panic grass, and pokeweed.Next page...Effects of Clearcutting on Hares and Rabbits