Branch Morphology of Nonnative Elaeagnus Shrubs and Potential Consequences for Avian Activity in Midwestern Habitats

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Invasive nonnative species of woody plants can alter landscapes in ways that are detrimental to native wildlife. We studied branch structure of invasive nonnative Elaeagnus shrubs (autumn and Russian olive E. umbellata and E. angustifolia) as a potential influence on native bird activity in Midwestern habitats. In a comparison to three common native woody plants, Elaeagnus shrubs had a finer branch and denser structure than native black cherry (Prunus serotina) but did not differ from natives in other characteristics tested. Further, the morphological characteristics of Elaeagnusbranches did not appear to affect preference for perching substrate at feeders or activity of birds moving through Elaeagnus and native shrub areas monitored using mist nets. Thus, we concluded that any morphological changes that may occur when Elaeagnus shrubs invade a habitat would not negatively impact overwintering and breeding bird perching behavior or movements during the nonfruiting season.