Recently burned forests in western North America provide nesting habitat for many species of cavity-nesting birds. However, little is understood about the time frame and the variables affecting occupancy of postfire habitats by these birds. We studied factors influencing the occupancy and reuse of nest cavities from 1-7 years after fire in two burned sites of western Idaho during 1994-1999. Tree cavities were used for nesting by 12 species of cavity nesters that were classified by the original occupant (strong excavator, weak excavator, or nonexcavator) of 385 nest cavities. We used logistic regression to model cavity occupancy by strong excavators (n = 575 trials) and weak excavators (n = 206 trials). Year after fire had the greatest influence on occupancy of nest cavities for both groups, while site of the burn was secondarily important in predicting occupancy by strong excavators and less important for weak excavators. Predicted probability of cavity occupancy was highest during the early years (1-4) after fire, declined over time (5-7 years after fire), and varied by site, with a faster decline in the smaller burned site with a greater mosaic of unburned forest. Closer proximity and greater interspersion of unburned forest (15% unburned) may have allowed a quicker recolonization by nest predators into the smaller burn compared to the larger burn with few patches of unburned forest (4% unburned). In combination with time and space effects, the predicted probability of cavity occupancy was positively affected by tree and nest heights for strong and weak excavators, respectively.
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Factors influencing occupancy of nest cavities in recently burned forests