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Avian Use of Successional Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) Woodlands along the Middle Missouri River

Mark A. Rumble and John E. Gobeille
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 152, No. 1 (Jul., 2004), pp. 165-177
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3566651
Page Count: 13
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Avian Use of Successional Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) Woodlands along the Middle Missouri River
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Abstract

Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) woodlands are important habitats for birds. Yet, little is known of the relations between bird habitat and succession in these woodlands. We studied the bird community in cottonwood woodlands from early to late seral stages along the Missouri River in central South Dakota from 1990 to 1992 to describe quantitative relations between avifauna and ecological patterns of succession in cottonwood woodlands along the Missouri River. The vegetation in the early seral cottonwood was characterized by a high density of seedlings and saplings that were restricted to narrow bands along the rivers. Late seral cottonwoods were characterized by a few large old trees that extended across the flood plain. Seventy-nine percent of the bird species were woodland obligates. Birds that nest in trees or cavities were the most common, while shrub and ground nesting birds were relatively uncommon. Total bird abundance, species diversity, species richness, richness of woodland obligates, abundance in the tree-nesting guild, abundance in the cavity-nesting guild and abundance in the shrub-nesting guild were greater (P < 0.01) in late and late intermediate seral cottonwood stands. Patterns of bird use in cottonwood seral stages by individual species were less evident. Several species were more abundant (P < 0.08) in late or late intermediate seral cottonwood and no species were more abundant (P > 0.10) in early or early intermediate seral cottonwood. Bell's vireos (Vireo belli), indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea) and brown thrashers (Toxostoma rufum) occurred predominantly in early or early intermediate seral stages, but no significant differences among seral stages were noted. Expanses of late seral cottonwood on flood plains will likely decline because controlled river flows reduce flooding that is necessary for cottonwood regeneration. Cottonwood regeneration was evident only in narrow bands along the river channels. Cavity nesting species will be the most negatively affected by loss of late seral cottonwood.

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