Managing Bird Habitat in Southeastern Working Forests

In the Southeast, forests shelter rich biodiversity, including more than 80 breeding bird species, ranging from Swallow-tailed Kites to Hooded Warblers. They also provide the source for goods we rely upon every day, including cardboard boxes, lumber, paper towels, toilet paper, and packing and printer paper.

Forestry has always been an integral part of the Southeast's economy. Today, some 90 percent — approximately 134 million acres — of the region's forested land is owned by private individuals and families, many of whom strive to meet certification needs set by large companies to which they provide lumber. With thoughtful management decisions focused on sustainability, these forests can provide the best of both worlds — landscape-scale stretches of commercially productive land and habitats that protect birds, other wildlife, and water quality.

“Many people in the forest industry want what we want,” says EJ Williams, ABC's Vice President of Migratory Birds and Habitats. “They want both economic and ecological viability into perpetuity.” Williams, who lives in South Carolina, works on the ground with regional Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) partners. “Companies and their customers want to know their products come from well-managed forests, and birds can tell you a lot about the sustainability of forests,” she says.

One important partner is International Paper, a leading producer of renewable, fiber-based packaging, pulp, and paper. Through its large and diverse supply chain, the company works with private forest landowners ranging from large forest management investment companies to small family forest owners. ABC works with International Paper to develop bird-focused management recommendations for private forest landowners, including special practices landowners can employ to ensure habitat is maintained for at-risk species.

How Working Lands Can Work for Birds

Forest lands at different stages of management and conservation can be a boon to southeastern birds. A few examples of bird-benefiting practices are shown in the artwork below. See the identification key at bottom to learn more about each.

Blue-throated Hillstar feeding, Cerro de Arcos, Michael Moens

Artwork by Chris Vest

Key to Bird-Friendly Forestry Practices
1. Wide riparian buffers protect not only water quality but also Swallow-tailed Kites and Hooded Warblers.
2. Mixed forest stands are home to Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Barred Owls, as well as Gray Foxes and Bobcats.
3. Regenerating young forest is important for the Prairie Warbler and Northern Bobwhite.
4. Cut areas with scattered trees and standing snags attract Red-headed Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds (shown) as well as raptors, including nesting American Kestrels (not shown).
5. Many of the boxes arriving at our doorsteps hail from southeastern forests, as do many other household products we rely upon. Responsible companies seek out suppliers sourcing wood products from forests certified as sustainable, including those in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), an ABC partner.