Once the nights become warmer in late March and the maple tapping season ends, nesting birds start to move in to New York's forests. But these birds need more than just maple trees to thrive.
As part of the Healthy Forests initiative, Audubon New York is partnering with maple producers to return sugarbushes to a more natural state. (Sugarbush refers to a forest stand which is utilized for maple syrup; the tree canopy is dominated by sugar maple.) The shift will benefit nesting songbirds, including Scarlet Tanagers, Wood Thrushes, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and Veeries—and make the resulting product more appealing to bird-loving consumers.
WHAT IS A BIRD-FRIENDLY SUGARBUSH?
While many maple products may look and taste the same, the forests they come from can be managed in different ways. "Maple monocultures," or a grouping of solely Sugar Maple trees, support relatively low numbers of birds and other wildlife. These same forests are also less likely to be able to respond to the stresses of insect outbreaks, disease, or a changing climate. Through the application of forest management, their long-term value to birds and overall forest health can increase.
A bird-friendly sugarbush is managed for the following features to offer great places for birds to forage, hide, and raise their young:
- A diversity of tree species; more than just maple
- Layers of vegetation; from small seedlings on the forest floor, to saplings and shrubs, to the canopy overhead
- Standing dead trees and live trees with cavities; the bigger the better
- Logs and branches on the forest floor
A DELICIOUS CONSERVATION PROJECT
The Bird-friendly Maple project is a collaborative effort to integrate bird conservation with New York’s maple syrup industry by:
- Promoting sugarbush management practices that support birds, forest health, and sustainable sap production
- Recognizing maple producers for considering bird habitat in their sugarbush
- Increasing awareness of the important role New York’s forests play in bird conservation
- Educating consumers about maple syrup and its many natural benefits.
LOOK FOR THE LABEL!
To recognize and support participating maple producers for their good work, look for maple syrup containers with the label indicating that the syrup is Maple Managed for Birds. Maple producers who intentionally integrate bird habitat into the stewardship of their forest are taking the first step toward ensuring important habitat features are created during sugarbush management activities.