Conservation of riparian vegetation in western North America has, in part, emphasized providing habitats for a locally diverse avifauna. Site diversity, especially relative to the number of species present, is generally high within riparian avifaunas. Between-habitat diversity changes across a watershed, with riparian species assemblages differing most from upland assemblages at the highest and lowest elevations. This pattern can be attributed to enhanced avian movements within the riparian vegetation. The corridors for bird movements, in turn, facilitate faunal mixing on a broader scale, influencing regional diversity within landscapes. Riparian ecosystems are viewed as connectors of forests across fragmental landscapes. In western settings, however, they are highly linearized forests transecting watersheds between upland associations of high elevations and very different associations at lower elevations. Regionally, riparian vegetation represents linear islands that are internally both floristically and faunistically dynamic rather than mere bridges of homogeneous vegetation in landscape networks. The significance of riparian vegetation as habitat for western birds has been defined primarily at the local level. Conservation activities favoring site diversity are short-sighted, however, and could have severe consequences for unique elements of riparian avifaunas. Conservation actions must evaluate how local activities alter potential dispersal opportunities for ecological-generalist versus riparian-obligate species. Maintaining the character and integrity of riparian avifaunas requires planning from regional and continental perspectives.