Purpose and Use of this Guide
This publication is a tool to help improve habitat for populations of forest-interior birds. These guidelines are written for two types of land managers: those responsible for large landscapes, such as public lands or entire states; and private landowners who manage small blocks of forest. We first discuss concepts associated with forest fragmentation at both landscape and smaller habitat scales and provide general management suggestions that benefit many forest-interior birds. We then focus directly on the habitat-area requirements of the Scarlet Tanager: specifically, how much mature forest is necessary to sustain a breeding population of this Neotropical migratory songbird? Because habitat requirements for the Scarlet Tanager vary geographically, our specific recommendations are tailored to conditions in four regions of the species' range. Two of these regions, the Midwest and Atlantic Coastal Plain, are sparsely forested, whereas the Appalachian and Northern Forest regions are more extensively and continuously forested.
Why the Scarlet Tanager?
Why did we choose the Scarlet Tanager for this set of guidelines? First, this conspicuous species represents a whole community of forest-dwelling Neotropical migratory birds. Scarlet Tanagers are part of a community of species that share similar habitat requirements and geographical distributions. By meeting the habitat needs of Scarlet Tanagers, we will also be improving habitat for dozens of other forest-dwelling birds. In addition, several studies show that Scarlet Tanagers are negatively affected by the fragmentation of mature forests in certain parts of its range. Although Scarlet Tanager populations are not presently declining in many areas, this species is nonetheless vulnerable because so much of its population is concentrated in forests in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Furthermore, it is vital for the long-term survival of a species to begin studying and protecting it while it is still common. For these reasons, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology conducted a three-year study of four species of North American tanagers, combining the expertise of Cornell scientists and hundreds of volunteer "citizen scientists" throughout eastern North America. The results of that study (see Project Tanager sidebar) enable us to make meaningful recommendations that we believe can benefit Scarlet Tanagers and other forest-interior birds over the long-term.