We compared vegetation structure used by 14 bird species during the 1998 and 1999 breeding seasons to determine what habitat features best accounted for habitat division and community organization in Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) woodlands of southwestern Wyoming. Habitat use was quantified by measuring 24 habitat variables in 461 bird-centered quadrats, each 0.04 ha in size. Using discriminant function analysis, we differentiated between habitat used by 14 bird species along 3 habitat dimensions: (1) variation in shrub cover, overstory juniper cover, mature tree density, understory height, and decadent tree density; (2) a gradient composed of elevation and forb cover; and (3) variation in grass cover, tree height, seedling/sapling cover, and bare ground/rock cover. Of 14 species considered, 9 exhibited substantial habitat partitioning: Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), Plumbeous Vireo (Vireo plumbeus), Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus), Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), and Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii). Our results indicate juniper bird communities of southwestern Wyoming are organized along a 3-dimensional habitat gradient composed of woodland maturity, elevation, and juniper recruitment. Because juniper birds partition habitat along successional and altitudinal gradients, indiscriminate woodland clearing as well as continued fire suppression will alter species composition. Restoration efforts should ensure that all successional stages of juniper woodland are present on the landscape.
Additional publication details
Comparative habitat use in a juniper woodland bird community