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Effects of stream size on bird community structure in coastal temperate forests of the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A.

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Abstract. Vegetation and spring breeding bird populations associated with riparian forests on high and low order rivers of the Olympic peninsula, Washington (USA), were censussed in 1990 and 1991. The objectives were to (1) provide a baseline description of bird communities associated with unmanaged riparian forests, (2) determine whether there is a difference between bird communities along large and small rivers, and (3) identify what biophysical aspects of the fluvial corridor are most important in determining bird community structure. The approach was to link riparian bird community structure to river order and discuss relationships to vegetation, geomorphology and associated hydrologic disturbance regimes.

Large rivers tended to have more deciduous vegetation than small rivers (P = 0.07). Deciduous vegetation and patch types appeared to be linked to river size through stream valley shape and disturbance history. Bird species richness and abundance were significantly higher (P<0.05) on larger rivers (67–140 m width) than on small rivers (12–21 m width) and were positively correlated with the percentage of deciduous trees present at a site. The data suggest that migrant birds, such as the black‐throated grey warbler (Dendroica nigrescens) and warbling vireo (Vireo gilvus), require large tracts of contiguous hardwoods for successful breeding. Additionally, birds such as the Hammond's flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii) and hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) appear to depend on the juxtaposition of hardwoods and conifers during the breeding season. We conclude that bird communities on large rivers differ from those on small rivers and that these differences occur predictably with stream order.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Fisheries, Box 357980, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, U.S.A.

Publication date: July 1, 1998

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