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Composition of the songbird community at the DePauw Nature Park

Libby Allard and Vanessa Fox

Biology Department and Science Research Fellows Program, DePauw University

Click below to download:
Libby Allard's report (2.9 MB)
Libby Allard's poster


A small population of Cerulean Warblers
occurs in one of the forested sites at
the Nature Park.

DePauw’s Nature Park and Arboretum contain many different habitats. Vegetation and forest continuity vary, affecting the fauna that inhabit these areas. We collected data on songbird communities and habitat characteristics at three sites in the Nature Park and Arboretum, and compared our data to data previously collected at forested sites in Ohio. We hypothesized that differences in songbird communities between Indiana and Ohio were related to the age of the forest and the extent of forest fragmentation. We conducted songbird surveys and collected data on nesting success during May and June in 2004 and 2005. Acadian Flycatchers, typically associated with mature forest, were surprisingly abundant at the Nature Park.

The Cerulean Warbler, a rare and dangerously declining species in North America, occurred at only one of the sites in the Nature Park but population levels were higher there than in Ohio. Several other species of warblers, including the Ovenbird, also associated with mature forest, were absent from the Nature Park but present in Ohio. Northern Cardinals were common at the Nature Park sites. This edge-dwelling, fragmentation-loving species only chose territories along borders (powerlines, streams, meadows). Indigo Buntings are an early successional species that is usually found in meadows; surprisingly, they were common at one of the Nature Park sites and preferred to nest in low-growing shrubs. Populations of Northern Cardinals and Indigo Buntings may decline in future years as understory decreases and tree height increases. Continued research on songbird communities is important because it relates to the health of the ecosystem and may provide information that affects forest management decisions. On a more specific level, further research may address specific species of songbirds, some of which are of significant conservation concern.