Floodplain forests rival all other habitat types in bird density and diversity. However, major successional changes are predicted for floodplain forests along the Mississippi River in the coming decades; young forests may replace the existing mature silver maple (Acer saccharinum L.) forests in some areas. We wanted to assess how the breeding bird community might respond to these changes. We studied stands of young forests along the middle Mississippi River, comparing the breeding bird assemblages among three stages of forest succession: shrub/scrub, young cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marshall) and willow (Salix nigra Marshall) forests, and mature silver maple dominated forests. We recorded a total of 54 bird species; the most frequently observed species were the indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea), red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). Bird species richness differed among the habitat types, with mature forests supporting the largest number of species and the most species of management concern. The shrub/scrub and mature forest bird assemblages were distinct and shared few species, but the young forests had no identifiable bird species assemblage, sharing species found in both of the other habitat types. The bird assemblages we observed in young forests may become more prevalent as aging floodplain forests are replaced with younger stages of forest succession. Under this scenario, we would expect a temporary local decrease in bird species richness and habitat for species of management concern.
Additional publication details
Breeding bird assemblages associated with stages of forest succession in large river floodplains