Determining species occurrence in ecosystems of high conservation concern is especially important for recommending habitat management techniques and identifying suitable restoration sites. We investigated (1) how stand- and landscape-scale attributes affect occupancy of priority bird species associated with longleaf pine (Pinus palutris) ecosystems, (2) if these priority birds can be used as indicator species for desired open pine forest structure, and (3) if these indicator species are positively correlated with greater avian richness. We compared priority bird occupancy among 12 stand types (habitat types) throughout the historic range of longleaf pine in Mississippi. We found stands resembling the historic longleaf pine ecosystem were positively associated with Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) and Bachman’s Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis) occupancy probabilities, but were not significantly correlated with Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) or Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla) occupancy. Both of which were too generalized in their occurrence to be useful indicators. Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow occupancy probabilities positively correlated with desired forest structure metrics of longleaf pine ecosystems such as low midstory density (<10%) and basal area (9.2–16.1 m2/ha) and
40–60% canopy cover suggesting they are effective indicators of historic longleaf pine conditions. Cooccurrence of Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow was positively correlated with avian richness, indicating these species can be used in conjunction as effective indicators for desired open pine endpoints used for restoration and management. Inclusion of priority bird species in management efforts provides assurance that restored areas will incorporate desired forest structure endpoints that have been linked to open pine priority bird presence. Correlation between priority bird species and avian species richness ensures restored areas provide suitable habitat for local avian communities.
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