Photo credit: Pam Hunt


Shrublands are habitats dominated by woody shrubs with few or no trees. In New Hampshire, power line rights-of-way, shrubby old fields, wildlife openings, old gravel pits, and pine barrens provide shrubland habitat. Shrubland habitats require periodic disturbance (for example: fire, brush-clearing, timber harvest) to prevent them from reverting to forest. WAP habitats included here are anthropogenic shrublands, pine barrens, and some communities associated with rocky ridges and peatlands. Not included in this habitat category are birds found primarily in regenerating spruce-fir forests, shrubby wetlands, or edge habitats associated with residential or commercial development (see Developed Areas).

Shrublands Graph

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Ruffed Grouse
Common Nighthawk
Eastern Whip-poor-will
American Woodcock
Northern Harrier
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Prairie Warbler

Other Representative Species

Willow Flycatcher
Gray Catbird
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Indigo Bunting

Shrublands Population Index graph

Current Trends

Of the forty-three species that breed in New Hampshire shrublands, two thirds are declining. Some of the strongest declines are seen in birds like the Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher, which prefer very dense thickets such as in pine barrens. Increasing species are mostly those that often live in close proximity to people, including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Carolina Wren, and Chipping Sparrow.

Primary Threats

Most declines among these birds can be attributed to habitat loss. Prior to European settlement, shrublands were relatively rare (except along the coastal plain) and dispersed in New Hampshire, created by the occasional fire, ice or wind storms, beavers, or Native Americans. Widespread clearing for agriculture in the 19th and 20th centuries gave rise to extensive grasslands and shrublands, creating more habitat for these early successional birds, and their numbers increased. With the loss of farms, formerly open areas have either been developed or matured into forest, with a resulting decline in shrubland bird populations.

Conservation Actions

Given the extent of New Hampshire’s forests and its importance to forest bird populations, it is neither feasible nor desirable to restore shrubland bird populations to their peak levels of the 19th century. Instead, conservation actions should focus on identifying areas where shrubland bird populations are still viable, or where active land management has the potential to maintain or restore such populations. When these sites are identified, they can be managed to limit forest growth.

Data Needs

Further research and monitoring are needed to evaluate different management regimes for maintaining shrubland habitat. Of particular interest is how birds may respond to management for the endangered New England cottontail.

Breeding Habitats

Many threats faced by birds are tied to the habitats where they breed. Explore the habitats and learn more about each one’s characteristics, population trends, threats, and conservation actions.

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count