Effects of savanna restoration on the foraging ecology of insectivorous songbirds

Sarah C. Hartung, Jeffrey D. Brawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied the foraging behavior of insectivorous songbirds during the breeding season at four sites in Illinois, each with restored open-canopy savanna habitat (65% mean canopy closure) and closed-canopy forests (89% mean canopy closure). We sampled and compared apparent tree species preference, foliage layer preference, and proportional use of different prey-attack maneuvers in the two habitats. In closed-canopy forests, three of nine songbird species foraged in black oak (Quercus velutina) and white oak (Q. alba) more than expected based on availability, and foraged less than expected in shade-tolerant trees such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and red elm (Ulmus rubra). Four species also displayed apparent preferences for black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). In contrast, songbirds used tree species according to availability in open-canopy habitat. We observed apparent preferences for the shrub and subcanopy vegetation layers (0-5 m and 6-10 m) in open-canopy habitat and apparent preferences for the sub-canopy and lower canopy vegetation layers (6-10 m and 11-15 m) in closed-canopy forests. Relative use of prey-attack maneuvers in open versus closed-canopy habitat was significantly different for the Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) and the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), but not for foliage-gleaning species. These results suggest that restoration of oak savannas has important effects on the habitat use and foraging ecology of selected insectivorous birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-888
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Closed-canopy forests
  • Foraging behavior
  • Habitat structure
  • Insectivorous songbirds
  • Oak woodlands
  • Savanna restoration
  • Sugar maple

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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