Predicting Bird Guilds Using Vegetation Composition and Structure on a Wild and Scenic River in Arizona

Erin S. Cubley, Heather L. Bateman, Sidney B. Riddle, Chris Holmquist-Johnson, David M. Merritt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Scopus citations


    Riparian areas are among the most ecologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems but make up <2% of landscape area in southwestern USA. Many species of resident and neotropical migratory birds utilize riparian habitats for breeding, foraging, and nesting. We quantified vegetation composition and structure to predict bird guilds on Wild and Scenic portions of the Verde River, Arizona. We grouped plant species into guilds based on similar functional traits to describe composition. We surveyed birds during the breeding and migrating season to determine abundance and categorized species into guilds using preferences of breeding habitat, foraging substrate, and nest placement. Riparian obligate and facultative breeding guilds were most common. Both vegetation composition and structure were useful predictors of birds. Vegetation structure was most complex in gallery riparian forest. Abundance of riparian-obligate birds in the breeding guild were positively associated with vegetation structure of dense, multi-canopy canopy and tall trees. Abundance of most bird guilds were positively associated with composition of tall trees (Populus fremontii, Salix gooddingii) and drought tolerant shrubs (Prosopis velutina, Celtis reticulata). Our findings show complex riparian habitat important to wildlife is created by both composition and structure of near-stream vegetation that is tied to hydrology and sensitive to flow change.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1829-1842
    Number of pages14
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 2020


    • Avian guilds
    • Biodiversity
    • Riparian ecology
    • Vegetation guilds
    • Vegetation structure
    • Verde River

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Environmental Chemistry
    • Ecology
    • Environmental Science(all)


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