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Managing woodland for birds

Coppice management

A coppice regime provides an opportunity to create a wide range of structural diversity within woodland that, through the development of a closed canopy, has limited shrub and field layers. The quantity and type of deadwood can also be improved.

Creating opportunities for woodland birds in managed coppice should be relatively straightforward, however with the exception of nature reserves, coppice management has largely died out in Wales. Where it can be reinstated or implemented, it does have great potential in creating suitable habitat for woodland birds as well as providing a possible income through coppice products, firewood, woodchip etc.

The principles of coppice management are:

  • Provide a variety of age structures at a reasonable scale; small coupes managed on a carefully planned rotation can create a complex mosaic of age classes, providing habitat for a wide range of birds.

  • Provide, where practical, a sinuous edge to coupes. This gives a higher volume of foliage, and therefore a higher invertebrate biomass, and can offer protection from chilling winds, which also promotes invertebrate abundance.

  • Leave a proportion of deadwood, both standing and fallen, although avoid suppressing the ground layer.

  • Retain standards at a proportion that will provide for those species requiring mature trees, but does not compromise light penetration and hence the vigour and density of the coppice re-growth.

Management issues

Issue: loss of habitat and humidity during clearance. Coppice management will temporarily disrupt the humid conditions, and there will be a loss of nesting and foraging areas when a coupe is cleared.


  • Quick-growing coppice regeneration means that humidity is restored relatively quickly inside the shrub layer.

  • The presence of standards will help to maintain some humidity.

  • Smaller coupes will be less exposed and retain humidity better than larger ones.

Issue: lack of variety of crop species. Long- standing coppice can have a relatively low number of crop species as management may favour specific products. Valuable crop species would have been favoured, and low value competitors were either removed or allowed to die out or become scarce. Stands with few woody species are

Table 12 Growth stages of coppice management and the resources provided for birds.


New ground

Early growth

Medium growth

Old coppice

0–1 year

2–4 or 5 years

4–10 years

10–15 years


Woodcock Turtle dove Nightjar

Lesser spotted woodpecker

Woodlark Tree pipit Willow warbler Wood warbler Spotted flycatcher Willow tit Marsh tit Bullfinch

Key: Dark shading = nesting and foraging, pale shading = foraging only


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