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Plate 2 Ivy provides cover for many nesting birds, eg spotted flycatcher and hawfinch and does not normally damage growing trees.

Nigel Symes (The RSPB)

Woodland management for birds: Birds and woodlands in Wales

Field layer

The field layer component varies greatly depending on woodland type, soil and drainage conditions, and grazing management. Welsh upland oak woods are typified by a closed canopy with an open structure and sparse field layer, supporting characteristic species that benefit from this structure, eg pied flycatcher and wood warbler. Conversely, a lush field layer including herbaceous plants and low scrub is preferred by other species, eg garden warbler.

Rides, glades and clearings

Rides, glades and other open spaces, eg clearfell, are significant structural features within the woodland. They are a relatively straightforward mechanism for enhancing

the biodiversity of the woodland where structural diversity is otherwise lacking. They can provide a number of features that are very important to breeding birds including:

  • opportunities to develop the woodland- scrub-open ground interface that is important for nesting and foraging

  • a warm, sheltered micro-climate, insulated from cold wind

  • more opportunities than are usually available at the woodland edge to manipulate structure and add shape or interface length

  • a potentially long interface between a scrub edge and grass or other open habitats

  • open ground that can be managed to provide the specific requirements of ground-feeding birds

  • nectar sources for invertebrates.

Ivy Abundant berries ripen in early spring and are valuable to birds when other food can be scarce. Ivy flowers in the autumn when few other species do, these are rich in nectar attracting many late-flying insects, which in turn are valuable prey for many insectivorous birds. Ivy is also valuable for roosting bats.


Deadwood is fundamental to the woodland ecosystem. It occurs in all structural levels, provides the soil with nutrients, and harbours an abundance of invertebrates. Deadwood is particularly important for birds, providing nest sites and invertebrate food.

The volume of dead and dying wood in a natural or near-natural forest ecosystem is vast, but it can be relatively scarce in managed or formerly managed woodland. Deadwood supports a large and complex food chain, driven by fungus. Many invertebrates are adapted to foraging in dead and dying wood, particularly in their larval stages, where fungal mycelia and fruiting bodies are an abundant food for them. The number of deadwood niches can be high, eg various stages of decay, a variety of host tree species, wet wood or dry, and exposed or bark-covered wood.

The volume and diversity of deadwood directly influences the biomass of invertebrates and their availability to a range of bird species. There is often a high diversity of species associated with deadwood, eg parasitic and predatory species, and species that just use the wood for their breeding cycles. This diversity


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