WHAT IS Forestry for Maine Birds?
Forestry for Maine Birds (FFMB) integrates bird conservation with forest management and planning by:
- Improving habitat for priority forest birds and a variety of other wildlife species,
- Engaging woodland owners in forest stewardship,
- Working alongside other forest management goals, and
- Enhancing the value and enjoyment of Maine woodlands for many generations to come.
FFMB works with three key audiences:
- Landowners, who have the potential to create high-quality bird habitat on their woodlands by managing “with birds in mind.”
- Foresters, who have the expertise to create management plans that consider what habitat birds need and how to create it over the long-term.
- Loggers, who implement forest management plans and can improve habitat for birds in how they operate equipment and manage work sites.
How does Forestry for Maine Birds work and what does it look like?
With careful planning, you can have productive working woodlands that provide habitat for many of the bird and wildlife species that call Maine home. The “handy” habitat assessment below will help you recognize which habitat features you might already have in your woodlands and which ones are missing that you might want to enhance or try to create over time.
Why is Maine so important for birds?
Every spring, the Maine woods come alive with color and song. Bright warblers return from points far south to sparkle like jewels in the trees. Sturdy woodpeckers and hardy chickadees that stay in Maine all winter look for nesting cavities in dead or rotting trees. Stealthy thrushes hide in dense vegetation, though their resounding flute-like songs give their location away.
The Maine woods fill with more than 90 different species of birds, many here for just three short months, to do one thing: make baby birds. Lots and lots of baby birds.
Maine forests are baby bird factories. They provide a variety of habitats – places where animals find what they need to survive, including food, water, cover from predators, and a place to raise young. For birds, long days, abundant food, and excellent habitat makes the Maine woods an ideal place to raise baby birds. In fact, the Maine woods are SO important for our breeding forest birds that much of northern and western Maine has been designated a globally significant Important Bird Area by National Audubon and BirdLife International.
What is the problem?
Populations of many forest birds have been steadily declining in recent decades, as threats continue to grow. Read about how bird populations have declined by 30% since 1970 both in a recent Portland Press Herald op-ed and on 3billionbirds.org. You can also watch a webinar titled “What is Happening to Our Birds?” that Sally Stockwell presented to the Western Maine Audubon chapter in September of 2020. These threats include habitat fragmentation, development, chemical contamination, and air pollution, coupled with habitat loss at migratory stopovers, on wintering grounds, and on summer breeding grounds. Climate change adds an element of uncertainty to the future as plant and animal species shift and move, ecological communities change, and more intense storms change forest dynamics. Yet no matter what other threats these forest birds face, if they don’t have good habitat for raising their young, their populations will continue to plummet. You can read (and listen to) more about the connection between FFMB and combating climate change in a Maine Public piece titled “To Aid Conservation, Loggers, Landowners Asked to ‘Think Like a Bird‘” by Susan Sharon.
What can I do?
With 96% of Maine’s land privately owned, landowners can play a critical role in helping birds and other wildlife face these challenges. By enhancing habitat features on your woodland, you can help conserve Maine’s “baby bird factory,” and increase the likelihood of population recovery. That is where Forestry for Maine Birds (FFMB) comes in.
FFMB promotes healthy forests with strong structural and age-class diversity across the landscape. FFMB does this by encouraging foresters, loggers, landowners, and land managers to consider the needs of forest birds when managing forests. FFMB provides tools to assess existing habitat and to plan activities that will enhance habitat features birds and other wildlife need, including structural complexity from the ground up and across the landscape. You can play an active role by beginning to maintain your woodland with birds in mind.
The FFMB approach is detailed in the Guidebook for Foresters, published in the Fall of 2017. Although fairly technical and geared toward foresters, the guidebook is a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about FFMB.
Hard copies of the Guidebook for Foresters are available to licensed foresters for free and to others for $12 each (plus shipping if needed). Email [email protected] to request a copy. The guidebook is also available for download as a PDF.
Additional materials for foresters interested in learning more about FFMB and how to integrate wildlife-friendly practices into management plans can be found on our Resources for Foresters page.
A landowner guidebook, The Woodland Owner’s Guide to Forestry for Maine Birds, is also available in hard copy by request and for download as a PDF.
Additional materials for landowners interested in learning more about FFMB and how to integrate wildlife-friendly practices into management plans can be found on our Resources for Landowners page.
A logger’s pamphlet, The Logger’s Guide to Forestry for Maine Birds, is also available in hard copy by request and for download as a PDF.
Informational signs: Forestry for Maine Birds informational signs are also available and will soon be on display in Sewall Woods in West Bath, the Yankee Woodlot in Skowhegan, the Woodbury Sanctuary in Monmouth/Litchfield, and the Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson. Tailored to each site, each sign describes one of eight different habitat features that are important to breeding forest birds. The signs highlight how active forest management can be used to create or enhance three layers of vegetation, small gap openings, and dead standing and down wood; why and how to conserve big old trees, softwood stands in hardwood forests, and riparian habitat; and how to reduce the threat of invasive species. Each sign, which is placed near an example of that habitat feature, includes a description of the feature, photos of birds that use that feature, and questions for the reader to consider, as well as recommendations for how to enhance habitat for birds and other wildlife in your own woodland. Templates are available to customize for other land trusts, municipal community forests, or Soil and Water Conservation District forests that are open to the public and being managed “with birds in mind.” Please get in touch with us if you are interested.
Virtual folder: scroll through each section here, or download the whole folder (PDF).
Central Maine Project
For landowners in the Lower Kennebec River Watershed, be sure to take a look at our FFMB: Kennebec program. This area – also technically identified as the Lower Kennebec River Watershed – was identified by our funders, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as a priority watershed for forest and river conservation projects. Landowners interested in wildlife-friendly management and who qualify can receive up to $1000 towards creating or updating management plans. Additional funding is also available for implementing wildlife-friendly management projects. You can also contact Hannah Young at [email protected] or 207-781-2330 x219 to learn more.
Western Maine Project
Do you own forestland in western Maine? Are you interested in improving fish and wildlife habitat on your land? If so, you may be eligible for funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP program or the Western Maine Habitat Restoration project to improve fish and wildlife habitat and biodiversity in Western Maine. This could include creating forest conditions that priority birds and other wildlife need and improving fish and wildlife passage in streams.
This project is a collaboration between Maine Audubon, New England Forestry Foundation, American Forest Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help landowners create and implement long-term management plans that incorporate wildlife-friendly practices, while still accomplishing the landowner’s goals.
Eligible landowners will receive funds to help create forest management plans and undertake habitat restoration projects that benefit a wide range of fish and wildlife species in parts of Franklin, Oxford and Somerset counties. For details on how you can participate, please contact Hannah Young at [email protected] or 207-781-2330 x219, or visit the New England Forestry Foundation website.
Song Meter Project
In 2019 Maine Audubon partnered with the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and the Seven Lakes Alliance to test the efficacy of using remote acoustic recording devices, or song meters, to detect the presence of breeding birds at two different Demonstration Forests – one in West Bath and another in Vienna. The goal of this project is to evaluate whether we can use song meters to track changes in breeding bird presence in response to different forest management practices promoted by FFMB.
With the help of our partners, the song meters are set out in early May and rotated for two months among forest sites that represent important habitat features for birds and other wildlife – such as snags, small canopy gaps, riparian areas, woody material, mature older trees, and mixed-aged stands. We are interested in the overall species richness associated with habitat features, and also focus attention on 20 priority species of conservation interest.
We are also engaging volunteers in identifying birds on-site through point counts of breeding birds. Our hope is that the results will help us track changes in bird communities and priority species over time in response to forest management, and inform recommendations we provide to private woodland owners, foresters, and loggers through the FFMB program.
Do you “bird by ear” and have some time to listen to recordings from the comfort of your own home? We’re need volunteers to help identify birds that were recorded with song meters last spring and we’re also looking for volunteers to help with forest point counts this year. If you’re interested, please contact Tracy Hart at [email protected] or call 207-781-2330 ext. 216.
Who created FFMB?
FFMB is a cooperative effort led by Maine Audubon in partnership with the Maine Forest Service, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Forest Stewards Guild. The program was adapted from initial work done in Vermont by Vermont Audubon and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Rather than focusing just on Northern Hardwood forests as did Vermont, the Maine team adapted and expanded the Vermont program to address bird habitat needs in four different forest types – Oak/Pine, Northern Hardwood, Northern Mixedwood, and Northern Softwood.
For those with limited time, Maine Audubon offers slide presentations about the Forestry for Maine Birds program that typically last about an hour, maybe a little more with questions and answers, and can be tailored to your audience and timeframe. Please get in touch with Hannah Young to schedule a presentation at [email protected] or 207-781-2330 x219. This is a good introduction to the program, but for those of you interested in using FFMB to help manage your woodland, we strongly encourage you to attend one of our field workshops if you possibly can.
General Workshop Information:
Between April and October, Maine Audubon, The Forest Stewards Guild, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Maine Forest Service host workshops for foresters, landowners, and loggers. These workshops bring Forestry for Maine Birds into the field, and includes background on bird identification, a primer on habitat features different birds need, and an opportunity to practice doing habitat assessments to determine which features are and are not present in the forest, and how to use that information to develop a management plan “with birds in mind.”
Workshops are usually conducted with a local host organization or agency, are tailored to the specific audience and location, and typically include an initial indoor classroom style presentation followed by a field-based program, but also can be conducted entirely outdoors. Presenters include a professional wildlife ecologist and licensed forester and sometimes a local natural resource professional as well.
Request a FFMB Workshop: Many of our workshops for 2020 have been postponed because of COVID-19. However, if you are interested in hosting a workshop later this year or next year, please email [email protected] or call 207.781.2330 ext. 219 to determine what is possible at your site!
Watch sample webinars:
Webinar hosted by Maine Coast Heritage Trust (available on YouTube), May 2021: A webinar geared specifically for land trusts
Interested in a webinar? Contact Maine Audubon at [email protected] to discuss what’s possible.
In addition, we have created a series of videos filmed in the woods so that you can get the essence of a workshop, including an introduction to Forestry for Maine Birds and why Maine is so important for birds; an introduction to the habitat features birds need; a conversation with a Maine Forest Service forester and private consulting forester; and links to more resources and funding opportunities to help you manage your woodland “with birds in mind.”
Part 1: What is Forestry for Maine Birds?
Join a wildlife ecologist and two professional foresters to learn about the international significance of Maine’s forests for breeding forest birds, and how to manage your woodland “with birds and other wildlife in mind.”
Part 2: What Forest Habitat Features Do Birds Use?
Watch forester Amanda Mahaffey introduce you to 10 important habitat features that are important to breeding forest birds and other wildlife. Learn how to do a “handy habitat assessment” of your own woodland to find out how many you have.
Part 3: Live Habitat Features
Watch forester Andy Shultz discuss in detail the five live habitat features of a Maine forest that are important to breeding forest birds and other wildlife.
Part 4: The Importance of Dead Wood
Join wildlife ecologist Sally Stockwell as she extols the virtues of dead wood, and showcases why dead standing and down wood is important for breeding birds and other wildlife.
Part 5: Putting Your Forest Management Plan into Action
Hear from three professional foresters about how to get the help and advice you need to put together and pay for a management plan that meets all your goals for the future of your woodland.
Bonus Episode 1: Taming Invasive Plants in My Woodland
Hear from two professional foresters about what resources are available to help you identify, contain, and limit the spread of nonnative, invasive plants in your Maine woodland, including color booklets, invasives experts, and funding.
Bonus Episode 2: Landowner Services
Interested in having your woodland certified as being sustainably managed to provide wood, wildlife, water, and recreation? Learn how to join the Maine Tree Farm program. Also learn about how the Maine TREE Foundation is helping educate youth and adults about the value of family woodlands and forest products.
Bonus Episode 3: Tips for Towns: How to manager your community forest
Take a tour of one of Falmouth’s community forests and see firsthand how it is being managed with Town Forester Paul Larrivee.
Sally Stockwell, Andy Shultz, and Amanda Mahaffey show you how to assess your forest in this tutorial video: Forestry for Maine Birds Tutorial – How to Complete a Habitat Assessment.
Tour the U.S. Forest Service Penobscot Experimental Forest and see how different kinds of silviculture and harvesting have changed the forest over the past 60 years. Learn from experts at the University of Maine, Maine Forest Service, Maine Audubon, and others around the state about how to manage your woodland for the future, considering timber production, wildlife habitat, climate change, pests and disease. Watch this video made by the University of Maine forestry graduate student Maren Granstrom.
Conservation Director Sally Stockwell gave a presentation to the Maine Master Naturalist Program about the Forestry for Maine Birds program (November 2020); watch a recording of the webinar .