Firebirds: A Slide Show

These American birds depend on the restorative power of natural fires to create the habitat they need to survive

The Kirtland’s warbler is one of the rarest songbirds in North America. This bird has an unusual natural friend -- intense forest fires. Kirtland’s warblers nest primarily in large stands of young jack pine, which are created by regeneration from seed after intense fires.

The Mountain Plover is a species of shorebird, but this poorly named animal doesn’t actually live either by the shore or the mountains. It lives on the Great Plains of North America and is highly dependent on disturbances such as grazing and fire.

The Brown Thrasher is a large songbird that thrives in areas that have experienced big disturbances, such as wildfire. In much of their range, thrashers prefer shrubby habitats, forest edges, and other types of second-growth or regenerating vegetation.

Red- cockaded woodpeckers were once common in the longleaf pine forests of America’s Southeast. Today longleaf pine is reduced to only 2% of its historic range and the frequency of fires is greatly reduced; as a result, red-cockaded woodpeckers have suffered.

Chaparral is a type of habitat dominated by shrubs such as manzanita, huckleberry, and salal, found primarily along the West Coast. These areas are perfect for Wrentits, small birds able to dive and fly between the small spaces these shrubs provide. Prescribed burns can be beneficial to this species by promoting mosaics of habitats of different types and ages.

The Black-backed Woodpecker has a wide distribution across northern North America and in the northern Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada/Cascades. These tough-headed birds love recently burned forests so they can find their preferred food: wood boring beetle larvae.


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