Skip to content. Skip to navigation

State of the Birds Report

Document Actions

Eastern Forests

  Land Trusts Protect Eastern Forest Habitat  
  National and regional land trusts are permanently protecting working forests throughout the eastern U.S. by establishing reserves and purchasing easements.

• The Chippewa Flowage Forest Conservation Easement: This Forest Legacy project partnership with the Wisconsin DNR, Plum Creek Timber Company, and Trust for Public Land created an 18,000-acre conservation
easement of forest and wildlife habitat for forest birds such as Wood Thrush and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

• Altamaha River Project: The Nature Conservancy has helped protect over 100,000 acres of forests along Georgia’s most diverse river system through land purchases, conservation easements, and transfers to state or federal management, thus preserving habitat for Swainson’s Warbler and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

• The Richard & Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System: This 16,000-acre Nature Conservancy forest co-owned with the Cincinnati Museum Center is Ohio’s largest privately owned, protected natural area and provides habitat for mature
forest birds like Cerulean Warbler. 
  Image: Indigo Bunting By Norm Townsend   

Eastern Forests include the northern and central hardwoods, southeastern bottomland hardwoods, southern pine forests, and northern mixed-conifer forests. Overall, 84% of eastern forests are in private ownership. The three regions in the East with the largest concentrations of large corporate ownerships of private forestlands are the Southeast, Maine, and the Great Lakes states. Roughly 9.2 million acres (2%) of eastern forests are protected by The Nature Conservancy and land trusts under various easements or under ownership with management primarily for conservation. Whereas the largest contiguous blocks of older forests exist on public lands, private working forests provide substantial acreages of younger forests required by a suite of steeply declining, disturbance-dependent forest birds. Private forest parcels in the East are often small and embedded within highly fragmented urban and agricultural landscapes.

Eastern Forest Birds on Private Lands

On average, 83% of the distribution of 36 obligate eastern forest breeding species are on private lands. Suites of species with particularly high reliance on private forestlands (more than 90%) include young-forest specialists such as Brown Thrasher and Indigo Bunting, southern pine specialists such as Brownheaded Nuthatch, and forest generalists such as Eastern Bluebird and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Important wintering species, such as Rusty Blackbird and Winter Wren, also occur predominantly (more than 80%) on private lands.

For many birds that live in interior-forest habitat—such as Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Cerulean Warbler—large, contiguous areas of viable working forests can serve as buffers against development and ensure long-term population health. Birds dependent on early successional forests—including Golden-winged Warbler, American Woodcock, and Brown Thrasher—require diverse forest age classes across large landscapes and may benefit from timber management on both small and large forest parcels. Even small private forests in urban or agricultural landscapes may provide vital habitat for birds outside the breeding season, especially as stopover sites for re-fueling during spring and fall migrations.

Eastern Forest Bird Distribution 

Private lands play an important role in providing bird habitat in eastern forests, with 85% of forest lands in private ownership. The Scarlet Tanager has about 82% of its breeding season distribution on private lands. Scarlet Tanager by Kelly Colgan Azar. 
Appalachian Mixed
Hardwoods by Paul
Bolstad, University
of Minnesota,
Conservation Successes 

The Cerulean Warbler Conservation Initiative illustrates how private and public sectors can cooperate to benefit landowners and a bird species of high conservation concern. With 75% of Cerulean Warbler distribution on private land, common forestry practices on private lands can enhance mature forest habitat for Cerulean Warbler populations. In addition, landowner assistance programs are promoting reforestation of reclaimed mine land in the core of the Cerulean’s range.

Similarly, Golden-winged Warbler populations are benefiting from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Working Lands for Wildlife program. The program aims to restore 10,000 acres of Goldenwinged Warbler habitat on private lands in the Appalachians within five years, which will also benefit other species dependent on young forest, such as American Woodcock. The Golden-winged Warbler Conservation Plan—produced by a collaborative of 140 government agencies, universities, and conservation groups—identifies key areas for habitat restoration in each state. Some of the first management projects informed by the plan in Pennsylvania and other states are already attracting Golden-winged Warblers to places where they had been absent. 


 Left_arrow  Previous page                                                                 Next Page   right_arrow