Nesting habitat and reproductive success of southwestern riparian birds

B. F. Powell, R. J. Steidl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Vegetation structure and floristic composition strongly influence the structure of bird communities. To assess the influence of vegetation and other environmental characteristics on songbirds, we quantified nest-site characteristics and reproductive success of a riparian songbird community in Arizona. Although we found interspecific variation in characteristics associated with nest sites, we identified two suites of species that chose sites with similar characteristics. These 'nest groups' were explained largely by nest height and characteristics of nest trees. Overall, nest success was low for songbirds in this community, and averaged 23%. The most common cause of nest failure was predation (81%), although brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) was highest at nests of Bell's Vireos (Vireo bellii) (29%). No vegetation or environmental features were associated with the likelihood of cowbird parasitism for any species; nest success for Bell's Vireos was negatively associated with the amount of netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata) in the understory. Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii) and netleaf hackberry trees contained 41% and 17% of all nests, respectively, and therefore provide critically important nesting substrates for birds in this rare yet diverse vegetation community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-831
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bell's Vireos
  • Bird community
  • Habitat structure
  • Molothrus ater
  • Nesting habitat
  • Platanus wrightii
  • Reproductive success

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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