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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Foraging behavior of the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) and its implications for ecological restoration and sustainable boreal forest management

Versluijs, Martijn; Eggers, Sönke; Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Roberge, Jean-Michel; Hjältén, Joakim


Several studies have shown that the Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) is strongly favored by large-scale disturbances, including forest fires. However, natural disturbances have largely disappeared from European boreal forests because of modern forestry practices and fire suppression. We currently lack knowledge on the foraging activity and resource use of the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, especially in burned forests, and this restricts our ability to develop strategies for sustainable forest management and ecological restoration aiming at improving the situation of this woodpecker and associated species. In order to fill this knowledge gap, we studied the characteristics of selected foraging substrates and the foraging behavior of the Three-toed Woodpecker during the breeding season in unburned forests and forests that have been subjected to prescribed burning. We used instantaneous sampling during two consecutive springs (2016-2017), where we observed the woodpeckers' foraging behavior during a total of 977 minutes in burned forest and 962 minutes in unburned forests. The preferred foraging substrate for Three-toed Woodpeckers in both burned and unburned forests can be characterized as freshly dead trees with a DBH > 15 cm. However, data on time spent foraging on different substrates suggest that also substrates in the 5-15 DBH range and living trees are important. Additionally, prescribed burnings led to less pronounced selection of tree species, which suggest that fire may reduce differences in abundance of saproxylic insect prey between tree species. This information on substrate selection and foraging time provide complementary knowledge and thus should be used simultaneously when management strategies for improved woodpecker habitat are developed. Our results suggest that both prescribed burning and protecting forests with high density and diversity of dead wood provides habitat opportunities for Three-toed Woodpeckers and using both in management may maximize conservation outcome.


conservation; ecological restoration; prescribed burning; substrate selection; substrate use

Published in

Avian Conservation and Ecology
2020, Volume: 15, number: 1, article number: 6