Bird Communities of Beaver Wetlands and Forested Riparian Slopes along First- and Second-order Streams in Central Mississippi

Wetlands created by American beaver (Castor canandensis) provide habitat for a diversity of resident and migratory birds. To estimate bird community characteristics of beaver wetlands and adjacent riparian forests, we conducted point count surveys in five beaver wetlands and adjacent floodplain ridges of first- and second-order streams during winter 2001-2002 and spring 2002 in central Mississippi. Ninety bird species were recorded in beaver wetlands and 69 bird species were detected in adjacent upland forests. In beaver wetlands, we recorded 57 species during winter 2001-2002 and 69 species during spring 2002. In adjacent floodplain ridges, we recorded 37 species in winter months and 52 species during spring. Mean relative abundance of birds in beaver wetlands averaged 24.3 (± 6.8) in winter and 32.0 (± 8.3) in spring. Forests of adjacent ridges supported a mean abundance of 11.0 (± 2.5) birds in winter and 13.3 (± 2.9) in spring. Of the 90 species inhabiting beaver wetlands, 16 species were waterfowl (Order Anseriiformes), kingfishers (Order Coraciiformes), wading birds, shorebirds, and water birds (Orders Pelicaniformes, Charadiiformes, Ciconiiformes, and Suliformes). Twenty-seven bird species of beaver wetlands and 18 species of adjacent forested ridges were cavity excavators, cavity nesters, or aerially foraging insectivores. Both habitat types supported migratory and resident species of bottomland hardwood forests, and forested ridges supported upland species. Species of high conservation concern (Partners in Flight score > 16) were detected in both habitat types with selected species of warblers (Family Parulidae) and nuthatches (Family Sittidae) being most abundant in beaver wetlands. We believe that retention of beaver wetlands within first- and second-order streams that are adjacent to forested riparian areas can provide habitat for a diversity of bird species, including aquatic species and species of high conservation concern.

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