Habitat associations at multiple scales identify areas of management priority for American woodcock in Nova Scotia

Sarah E. Gutowsky, Lee F.G. Gutowsky, G. Randy Milton, Mark L. Mallory

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Identifying optimal habitat and predicting species distributions are essential components in developing management priorities for species of concern. In Nova Scotia, Canada, the breeding population of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) has been in decline over the past 50 years, likely in part because of reduced availability of habitat. We aimed to identify regions in Nova Scotia expected to support high numbers of woodcock, and whether monitoring efforts sufficiently capture the distribution of habitat. We generated a species distribution model to identify areas of highest relative predicted abundance and optimal habitat based on 15 years of standardized singing ground survey monitoring conducted along 50 routes and a candidate set of 56 habitat variables representative of composition and configuration at each of 2 ecologically relevant spatial scales (i.e., describing habitat immediately available to displaying males and the broader landscape used by the local breeding population). The species distribution model indicated extensive areas of optimal habitat in the central mainland characterized by moist organic soils, large, irregularly shaped patches of early successional forest, and large patches of open space created by developed, urban areas. We identified additional smaller pockets of habitat throughout the province likely to support relatively high local abundances. Much of the area identified as optimal habitat is not currently surveyed by singing ground survey routes. Expanding survey route coverage into regions identified as potentially optimal habitat could help clarify drivers of population declines. Overall, partnerships with provincial forest managers will be key to ensuring the maintenance of woodcock habitat while balancing the needs of a suite of avian species toward the goal of biodiversity conservation in Nova Scotia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere22153
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
    Issue number1
    Early online date28 Dec 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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