Well-timed studies of population trends are vital for informed conservation management. Grassland bird species are among the fastest declining avian groups, with many of these species depending on early successional habitats, which are ephemeral and last only a few years before forests return.
When the males of migrating bird species return from a winter down south, the first thing they need to do is procure a territory and attract a mate. For a species, most habitats are identifiable as superior (source) or inferior (sink). However, in some cases an inferior site is erroneously identified as a source (ecological trap).
When biologists, conservation scientists, and land managers can properly identify and mitigate traps, we have the potential to stabilize populations declining due to traps and the loss of historic habitats.
Post-industrial landscapes may mitigate this issue by serving as alternative habitats. Post-industrial landscapes are sites that have been significantly altered through human use. These sites can be brownfields, superfund sites, landfills, or abandoned industrial sites. What my research sites all have in common is that they outwardly present potential habitat to birds seeking territory.
This information will have considerable impact on urban land management because much of the east coast habitat is already developed and in order for animals to continue to exist in these systems they must be able to successfully adapt to them.
Specifically, I am monitoring American Woodcock, an indicator species for other early successional wildlife like Ruffed Grouse and Golden-winged Warbler that are severely declining due to significant habitat losses.
In particular, I hope that the urban setting of this study will allow many local community members the opportunity to visit field sites and see conservation first hand.
Please contact me if you are interested in learning more or becoming a supporter of Woodcock Watch NJ.