This study examined the influence of a spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clem.)) outbreak on a boreal mixed-wood bird community in forest stands ranging in age from 0 to 223 yr. We asked if (1) patterns of species response were consistent with the existence of spruce budworm specialists, i.e., species that respond in a stronger quantitative or qualitative way than other species; (2) the superabundance of food made it possible for species to expand their habitat use in age classes that were normally less used; and (3) the response to budworm was limited to specialists or was it more widespread. Results here indicated that three species, specifically the Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea), Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina), and Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina), had a larger numerical response to the budworm outbreak. They responded with increases in density of up to tenfold over 4 or 5 yr. No other species responded with more than a twofold increase in the same time period. These species also showed a functional response by breeding more frequently in young stands aged 1-21 yr and intermediate stands aged 22-36 yr as budworm numbers increased. Our data also suggested that many species profited to a lesser extent from budworm outbreaks, but that this effect may be too subtle to detect in most studies. We found evidence of a positive numerical effect in at least 18 additional species in one or two stand-age categories but never in all three for any one species. Given the numerical response in many species and the potential influence of budworm on bird populations because of the vast extent of outbreaks, we believe that the population cycle of spruce budworm should be considered in any evaluation of population trends in eastern boreal birds
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