Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Patrick Jodice

Committee Member

Dr. Beth Ross

Committee Member

Dr. Donald Hagan

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Baldwin


Early-successional habitats are a critical habitat type for Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) and Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera). In the Southern Blue Ridge Ecoregion, early-successional habitats have declined over the last 70 years, and the extent of which Ruffed Grouse and Golden-winged Warblers occupy these habitats at the edge of their ranges is unknown. Understanding the factors that drive the presence or absence of these species in this region is critical to inform quality management of early-successional forests. Additionally, increased knowledge of these species will likely benefit other species of conservation concern that rely on early-successional forests, such as the Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor), Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), and Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica). In this study, I examined multi-scale habitat factors to determine specific drivers of presence or absence of Ruffed Grouse, Golden-winged Warblers, and habitat indicator species. Additionally, I employed both human-observer and autonomous recording unit surveys to determine the efficacy of the two methodologies.

This study represents the largest known effort to inventory Ruffed Grouse and Golden-winged Warblers in the state of South Carolina. I found low Ruffed Grouse and Golden-winged Warbler occupancy rates across two seasons, indicating the need for both robust monitoring protocols and targeted habitat management for the benefit of these species. My results indicate unique habitat preferences of Ruffed Grouse in the Southern Blue Ridge Ecoregion. Additionally, my results provide insight into multiple parameters that drive early-successional songbird species occupancy. This project provides information that will aid in both habitat management and conservation of high priority early-successional avian species. This project also provides context for efficient monitoring protocols.



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