Birds Need Young Forest

Yellow warbler feeding on a caterpillar.
Tom Berriman
Birds like this yellow warbler find abundant fruits and high-protein insects in young forest and shrubland.

Many birds breed in young forest and shrubland, including the American woodcock, ruffed grouse, whip-poor-will, golden-winged warbler, and yellow warbler.

These birds nest in areas thick with young trees and shrubs, including tracts where timber has been logged. Even openings as small as half an acre in older forest will be sought out by birds such as black-and-white warblers, common yellowthroats, chestnut-sided warblers, eastern towhees, and gray catbirds.

Northeastern states list more than 40 kinds of young forest and shrubland birds as "Species of Greatest Conservation Need" in their State Wildlife Action Plans, blueprints for conserving wildlife and preventing species from becoming endangered. Some of these birds require young forest for breeding, while others use that food-rich habitat in different seasons.

After Breeding

When young birds leave the nest, their parents often take them to stands of saplings and shrubs, where the inexperienced youngsters can feed on insects and fruits while the dense stems shield them from predators. The abundant food helps juveniles develop into adults, and lets both youngsters and their parents build up strength before their strenuous southward migrations in autumn.

Learn more about how young forest helps songbirds, including many species that breed in older forest and then shift with their fledglings to areas of younger trees and shrubs.

Wild grapes growing in young forest and shrubland habitat.
Charles Fergus
Wild grapes are an important food for many birds in autumn and early winter.

Winter Food and Shelter

Birds that stay in the north during winter seek out young forest and shrubland to find food, including nuts and seeds, and to take shelter during cold and stormy weather.

State agencies create young forest and shrubland in wildlife management areas. Federal agencies make the same habitat on wildlife refuges and in national forests.

Conservation groups and land trusts often add a young forest component to their properties. Many private landowners are also stepping up to make young forest.

Foresters for the Birds

The Audubon Society understands that birds' health and numbers depend on their having access to different ages of woods with diverse trees and shrubs. In Massachusetts, Audubon's Foresters for the Birds program helps landowners carefully create young forest and shrubland in places where it can do birds the most good.