Floodplain forest of the Upper Mississippi River is important for songbirds during spring migration. However, the altered hydrology of this system and spread of reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) threaten tree diversity and long-term sustainability of this forest. We estimated tree preferences of songbirds during spring migration 2010–2013 to help guide management decisions that promote tree diversity and forest sustainability and to evaluate yearly variation in tree selection. We used the point center-quarter method to assess relative availability of tree species and tallied bird foraging observations on tree species as well as recording the phenophase of used trees on five 40 ha plots of contiguous floodplain forest between La Crosse, Wisconsin and New Albin, Iowa, from 15 April through 1 June. We quantified bird preferences by comparing proportional use of tree species by each bird species to estimates of tree species availability for all 4 y and for each year separately. Species that breed locally preferred silver maple (Acer saccharinum), which is dominant in this forest. The common transient migrant species and the suite of 17 transient wood warbler species preferred hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) and oaks (Quercus spp.), which are limited to higher elevations on the floodplain. We observed earlier leaf development the warm springs of 2010 and 2012 and later leaf development the cold springs of 2011 and 2013. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata), American Redstart (S. ruticilla), Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus) and Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula), and the suite of transient migrant wood warblers spread their foraging efforts among tree species in colder springs and were more selective in warmer springs. All three of the important tree species are not regenerating well on the UMR and widespread die-off of silver maple is possible in 50 y without large scale management.
Additional publication details
Tree species preferences of foraging songbirds during spring migration in floodplain forests of the Upper Mississippi River