Red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) are a species of special conservation concern in much of the Great Lakes region, and apparent population declines are thought to be primarily due to habitat loss and alteration. To evaluate red-shouldered hawk–habitat associations during the nesting season and at the landscape scale, we conducted repeated call-broadcast surveys in central Minnesota, USA, across 3 landscapes that represented a range of landscape conditions as a result of differing management practices. In 2004, we conducted repeated call-broadcast surveys at 131 locations in 2 study areas, and in 2005, we surveyed 238 locations in 3 study areas. We developed models relating habitat characteristics at 2 spatial scales to red-shouldered hawk occupancy and assessed support for these models in an information–theoretic framework. Overall, a small proportion of nonforest (grass, clear-cut area, forest <5 yr old), and a large proportion of mature deciduous forest (>40 yr old), had the strongest association with red-shouldered hawk occupancy (proportion of sites occupied) at both spatial scales. The landscape conditions we examined appeared to contain a habitat transition important to red-shouldered hawks. We found, in predominately forest landscapes, the amount of open habitat was most strongly associated with red-shouldered hawk occupancy, but in landscapes that included slightly less mature forest and more extensive open habitats, the extent of mature deciduous forest was most strongly associated with red-shouldered hawk occupancy. Our results suggested that relatively small (<5 ha) patches of open habitat (clear-cuts) in otherwise forested landscapes did not appear to influence red-shouldered hawk occupancy. Whereas, in an otherwise similar landscape, with smaller amounts of mature deciduous forest and larger (>15 ha) patches of open habitat, red-shouldered hawk occupancy decreased, suggesting a threshold in landscape composition, based on both the amount of mature forest and open area, is important in managing forest landscapes for red-shouldered hawks. Our results show that during the nesting season, red-shouldered hawks in central Minnesota occupy at similar rates landscapes with different habitat compositions resulting from different management strategies and that management strategies that create small openings may not negatively affect red-shouldered hawk occupancy.
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Vol. 73 • No. 8