Large aquatic bodies influence surrounding terrestrial ecosystems by providing water and nutrients. In arid landscapes, the increased primary productivity that results may greatly enhance vertebrate biodiversity. The Salton Sea, a large saline lake in the Colorado Desert of southern California, provides nutrients in the form of hundreds of thousands of dead fish carcasses, brine flies, and chemical compounds through windborne salt sea spray. We performed point counts for landbirds and shorebirds monthly or every other month between March 2001 and February 2002 across a sampling grid of 35 points along the west edge of Salton Sea. We found that avian diversity (numbers of species and numbers per species) was dependent on proximity to the Sea. Diversity was at a maximum nearest the shore, and was significantly lower away from the Sea's edge, at all surveyed distances up to 1 km from the shore. Cover by the dominant shrubs on the study site also corresponded to proximity to the water's edge. Whereas one may hypothesize that the avian diversity patterns are caused by these differences in vegetation structure, our data did not support this. Future studies should further investigate this potential correlation between vegetation and bird patterns. Until more is understood about the relationship between elevated avian diversity and the physical environment of the land-shore interface, our results suggest that the Sea's surface be stabilized near its present level. Future management schemes at the Salton Sea that include reductions of water sources should be carefully analyzed, so as to not jeopardize the terrestrial avifauna at this unique ecosystem. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.