Some Wildlife Attracted to Snags (and Cavities in Living Trees)

An American Marten perched atop a snag.

 Snags can offer a unique environment for countless creatures. From mammals sheltering in a storm to birds creating nests in the cavities and nooks of the upper trunk, snags remain a place for life long after they become "dead wood". Since many of these species are less likely to survive in suburban and urban areas it is important to keep some snags, along with the cavities in still living trees, to offer them a home on your land. In turn these snags will ensure your lands remain filled with wildlife and nutrient rich.

Invertebrates Amphibians
A wide variety of invertebrates inhabit snags. Some help decompose dying or dead wood. Decomposition returns nutrients to the soil. Some invertebrates hunt other invertebrates. Others are pollinators. Here are a few examples of snag-inhabiting invertebrates.
  • Carpenter ants
  • Spiders
  • Termites (note: as long as dead wood is not right next to a house, a snag’s termites pose no harm to homes or other structures)
  • Wood-boring beetles
Crags, pits, and areas of peeling bark, particularly in shady areas, provide the moisture and shelter needed by resting amphibians. These include:
  • Pacific treefrog
  • Gray treefrog
Reptiles Mammals
Snakes and lizards bask in the sun, but nearby cover to escape predators and the day’s high and low temperatures. Snakes and lizards prey upon a variety of small creatures, from invertebrates to small mammals. Here are some reptiles regularly found on or in cavities in snags:
  • Broadhead skink (Southeast)
  • Fence lizards (East to West)
  • Tree lizards (Texas and the Southwest north to extreme southern Wyoming)
  • Spiny lizards (a few species in Texas and the Southwest)
  • Rat snakes
Mammals use snags as places to sleep, escape the elements, raise their young, and for other purposes, including scratching or territorial marking posts. Bats roost in their cavities or within patches of peeling bark. Some snag-using mammals:
  • Bats
  • Northern and southern flying squirrels
  • Fox, Red, and Gray squirrels
  • Ringtails and Raccoons
  • Opossum
  • Martens and Minks (leaning or fallen snags)
  • Bobcat
  • Porcupine
  • Black bear
  • Gray fox (low snag or with access from another leaning log or snag)
Hundreds of bird species perch or hunt from snags. Raptors sit atop them to watch for prey. Swallows and others rest there, while watching for raptors. Brown creepers investigate peeling bark for spiders and invertebrates hidden there. Many birds defend their territories or attract mates by singing atop snags. Here are but a few examples of birds you might see on snags:
  • Eagles
  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Owls
  • Kingfishers
  • Woodpeckers
  • Flycatchers
  • Swallows
  • Brown creepers
  • Bluebirds
  • Buntings
In addition, more than 80 North American bird species nest in or on snags, including:
  • Ducks (several species, including black-bellied whistling-duck, wood duck, hooded and common merganser, bufflehead)
  • Herons (nests placed among branches)
  • American kestrel (cavity nester)
  • Bald Eagles (nest placed among branches)
  • Ospreys (nest placed among branches)
  • Black and turkey vultures
  • Owls (pygmy-owls, screech-owls, barred owls, barn owls, and others)
  • Chimney and Vaux’s swifts
  • Elegant trogon (southeast Arizona)
  • Woodpeckers (including pileated, Lewis’s, acorn, red-headed and white-headed)
  • Eastern, mountain, and western bluebirds
  • Ash-throated and great crested flycatchers (plus a few others)
  • Tree and violet-green swallows and purple martins
  • Chickadees (seven species)
  • Titmice (five species)
  • Nuthatches (four species)
  • Brown creeper
  • House, winter, Pacific, Carolina, and Bewick’s wrens (sometimes other species as well)
  • Prothonotary warbler (East)
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