Highly Developed: Urban Forest

Urban forests are essential areas of second growth forests that became established after the initial settlement and logging of the metro area in the 19th century and are typically comprised of native deciduous trees, conifers, shrublands and mixed hardwoods. Forested boulevards and shade trees can also be included in this category. Urban forestsix have a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits from increased property values and energy savings to enhanced esthetic values and recreational opportunities. Environmentally, urban forests provide clean water, clean air and important wildlife habitat. The metro area would not be the bird haven that it is today without its urban forest and intact river ecosystems. The protection and restoration of these urban forests is essential. Efforts should focus on connecting wooded areas across the urban landscape so that they can function as important wildlife corridors within a fragmented ecosystem.

Birds that thrive in Urban Forests

Approximately 35 species nest in or are permanent residents of the urban forest habitat type, three of which are species of conservation concern; the Northern Flicker, Chimney Swift and Brown Thrasher. Urban forests also play a critical role for larger birds in the urban environment such as the Cooper's Hawk, Barred Owl, Broad-winged Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker and American Crow. Also of important note are the 100 plus seasonal migrants that rely on the urban forest habitat type. Seasonal migrants are considered as a "target group" rather than selecting specific target species, detailed management actions for migratory birds are included in the BirdSafe section.

Target Species

Baltimore Oriolesx are colorful and charismatic with an easily recognizable nest structure and are a good gateway species into the world of birds and birding. They are common and widespread in Minnesota, utilizing a broad range of habitat types, yet appear to have a strong preference for riparian or open deciduous forests. Specific forest management practices including planting native deciduous hardwoods, maintenance of healthy trees in parks, and preservation of small groves of shade trees in urban and suburban areas will help conserve the Baltimore Oriole within the urban landscape.

Black-capped Chickadeesxi are one of the most widespread and familiar birds in North America, seen most readily in small flocks at backyard bird feeders in winter. Cavity nesters that are often found within 75 meters of forest boundaries, Black-capped Chickadees are common in deciduous forests with alder, cottonwood, willow and birch trees that provide suitable nesting and foraging habitat. Snag retention and supplemental bird feeders are easy conservation actions to support Black-capped Chickadee populations within the metro area.

The Gray Catbirdxii is a gray bird with a black cap and chestnut-colored undertail, named for its distinctive "mewing" call. Commonly found in dense shrubs, edge and early successional forests, the Gray Catbird requires structural diversity within the urban forest. Planting native shrubs in back yards, maintaining shrub rows in agricultural fields and creating or maintaining a shrubby layer of vegetation within the overall urban forest structure are conservation actions that can benefit this target species.

Conservation Actions: Urban Forest

  • Retain dead standing trees (snags) within an urban landscape
  • Apply integrated pest management strategies wherever possible to reduce pesticide use.
  • Mimic the structure of a natural forest within the urban environment by including a layer of understory vegetation, shrubs and an upper canopy.
  • Use native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants found locally, in parks and other public landscaping.
Copyright  2015 National Audubon Society, Inc