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Riparian Bird Communities

Riparian forests in the prairie region of Alberta provide excellent habitat for a wide range of wildlife.  I am interested in the bird communities that inhabit these forests.

Cattle grazing is an important industry in Alberta.  Just as wildlife is attracted to riparian habitat, so too are cattle. They obtain food, water and shelter and tend to spend far more time in riparian forests than one would expect on the basis of habitat prevalence.
river bend
lnid weir
Another impact on riparian habitat is the diversion of water for human use.  On the order of 70% of the consumptive use of water in Alberta is for irrigation.  Reduction of river flows appears to reduce the structure, health and recruitment of riparian vegetation.
Both cattle grazing and dewatering of rivers seem to have negative impacts on the bird communities of riparian forests.  It appears that impacts reduce the shrubby understory of these forests, and thus decrease both food and cover for birds. goldfinch
Environmental impacts on avian communities seem not to be restricted to the breeding season.  Year-round residents such as black-capped chickadees are also affected.  We believer that reductions to the shrubby understory decreases protection from winter winds, and thus birds in damaged habitats have higher energetic demands.
Research on the breeding biology of house wrens by graduate student Katheryn Taylor (nee Holgate) reveals that birds in damaged habitat make fewer trips to the nest to feed offspring than do birds in healthy habitats. house wren