Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2005


Published in Great Plains Research 15:2 (Fall 2005). Copyright © 2005 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


The Platte River has changed from a nearly treeless prairie river to a heavily forested river. These habitat changes have likely benefited many woodland birds, but have harmed other migratory birds such as cranes. In response to this impact on migratory birds, conservation groups implemented a tree-clearing program to enhance habitat for these species. This practice is not without controversy because of concerns about its effect on woodland birds. The goal of this study was to determine the composition and abundance of breeding birds that use these forests and discuss the potential impacts of tree clearing on woodland birds. Surveys were conducted using the point-count method. I observed 56 breeding species during 1998 and 1999. The most abundant woodland birds were house wrens (Troglodytes aedon), Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula), American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis), blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), eastern towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). The avian community is dominated by migratory species that are forest-edge and open-forest generalists. Certainly, conservationists and managers should consider the impact of the river-clearing program on woodland birds. However, a high priority must be placed on those species that are declining or have been severely impacted by the expansion of riparian forests. Ultimately, conservationists and managers must consider both the detriments and benefits of the program and make management decisions accordingly.