Waterbird communities and associated wetlands of the Colorado River Delta, México

Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta, Stephen DeStefano, Yamilett Carrillo-Guerrero, William W. Shaw, Carlos Valdés-Casillas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Despite extensive losses of wetlands caused by water diversions upstream, the Colorado River Delta in northwestern México remains an important wetland system in the Sonoran Desert. The purpose of our study was to describe waterbird communities across a variety of wetland habitat types and zones that exist in the Delta. We measured species richness and abundance of waterbirds from September 1999 to August 2000. We observed a total of 11,918 individuals of 71 species at sites within seven wetland areas. The waterbird communities differed with respect to guild composition and species abundances among the wetland zones. Wetlands along the eastern portion of the Delta (Ciénega and Indio), which are supported by agricultural drains and managed under conservation initiatives, exhibited the highest species richness in our summer and winter censuses, and highest abundance in summer. Shorebirds were the dominant guild in the summer period, while waterfowl were dominant during winter. Breeding marshbirds were also abundant, with the Yuma Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) being most notable. Wetlands along the western Delta (Hardy and Cucapá) were also supported by agricultural drains, but were not managed specifically for wildlife. The Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) and American Coot (Fulica americana) were dominant during winter, while long-legged waders (Ardeidae) were dominant in summer. The composition of waterbird communities along the mainstem of the Colorado River was similar to that of wetlands along the western portion of the Delta. The shallow and ephemeral Laguna Salada, along the western boundary of the Delta, exhibited the highest waterbird abundance among our winter censuses when it was flooded in 2000. The results of our study suggest that even minimal levels of instream flows would lead to habitat improvements for waterbirds in the Delta floodplain. A bi-national wetland management program for the Delta should consider the impacts of flood control measures and diversions for agricultural and urban uses to the health of wetland habitats on both sides of the international border.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalStudies in Avian Biology
Issue number27
StatePublished - Apr 23 2004


  • Avian communities
  • Baja California
  • Colorado River delta
  • Migratory birds
  • Sonora
  • Water management
  • Waterbirds
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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