Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

High Canopy and Forest Floor Bird Loss Due to Death of Soft Maples in Appleton Soft Maple Swamp

Prior to the beginning of the new millennium, Appleton Wetland Swamp was a lush area of several hundred acres of soft maple and willow trees, reaching forty to sixty feet tall. Much wildlife was to be found in this swamp including otter, muskrat, beaver and many different species of high canopy and forest floor nesting birds.

Today (2014), the dying and dead trees have drastically altered the habitat of these animals and birds. During the five years of the 2nd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (2000-2005 Cadman et al.), the Appleton Swamp was part of the atlas square surveyed by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Many species of birds nesting in the swamp at that time, are no longer to be found.

The largest factor for the disappearance of these birds in the Appleton Wetland can be attributed to the loss of tree canopy because the trees are either dying or already dead. The resulting opening or removal of the canopy causes these birds to be vulnerable to predation by hawks. Also, nestlings are deprived of protection from the sun’s heat when there are no leaves. When this happens, birds abandon their preferred nesting sites and either move on to other suitable habitat or fail to reproduce.

The following bird species, known and potential, are no longer present in the Appleton Wetland:

High Canopy Birds:
Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawk, red-shouldered hawk (on species-at-risk list), least flycatcher, American crow, wood thrush, gray catbird, warbling vireo, scarlet tanager.

Forest Floor Birds:
Winter wren, veery, hermit thrush’, palm warbler, black and white warbler, ovenbird, Northern waterthrush, Canada warbler.

Other Forest Dwellers:
Black-billed cuckoo, olive-sided flycatcher, Eastern wood pewee, yellow-bellied
flycatcher, Swainson’s thrush, Acadian flycatcher, alder flycatcher, blue jay,
wood thrush, blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, mourning warbler.

A change in water management regime for this section (Reach 18) of the
Mississippi River would help greatly in eventually allowing new growth of the
trees and would encourage the return of many of these bird species.

Article written by Cliff Bennett
Reference: A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds, 2nd edition,
Paul J.Baicich, Colin J.O. Harrison, 1997

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