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Avian population trends in the vulnerable montane forests of the Northern Appalachians, USA

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Declines in bird populations are an important issue facing conservationists. Although studies have documented bird declines in a variety of lowland habitats, montane habitats are generally under represented in these investigations. Nevertheless, montane habitats are vulnerable because of their restricted geographic distribution as well as their exposure to environmental stressors such as atmospheric deposition and climate change. We surveyed birds at 768 points on 42 transects in montane spruce-fir forests the White Mountains of New Hampshire from 1993–2003. We detected 17,479 individuals of 73 species during this period, of which 10 were abundant enough for analyses. Of these 10 species, three exhibited significant population declines during the survey period: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris), Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) and Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia). Two of these species (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Bicknell’s Thrush) are considered ecological indicator species for montane spruce-fir forest. Declines in these species are an indication that recent concern on the part of conservationists about montane spruce-fir forest and the birds that inhabit them are justified. Our observation that these trends were not reflected in the National Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) analyses, and that one high priority species, the Bicknell’s Thrush, did not occur on BBS routes in New Hampshire during the survey period, argues for the importance of continued efforts to monitor these habitats.

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The population trend analysis was funded by the White Mountain National Forest and by the Stone House Farm Fund of the Upper Valley Community Foundation. Data were collected by the Audubon Society of New Hampshire and by US Forest Service staff. We thank J. E. Goetz and J. H. Rappole for their comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to David I. King.

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King, D.I., Lambert, J.D., Buonaccorsi, J.P. et al. Avian population trends in the vulnerable montane forests of the Northern Appalachians, USA. Biodivers Conserv 17, 2691–2700 (2008).

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