Arizona Field Ornithologist ID Challenges
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Researching the Status and Distribution of Arizona Birds

Abstracts of Paper and Poster Presentations at AZFO State Meetings

 

 

--Index (topic)--

 

Cormorants

Hough, E. R. An Update on Neotropic Cormorants in Arizona: Using Citizen Science Data to Explore Trends in Range Expansion (2014)

 

Cranes

Conring, C. C., Grisham, B. A., Conway, W. C. Spatial Ecology of the Lower Colorado River Valley Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes (2016)

 

Cuckoos

MacFarland, J. Yellow-billed Cuckoo Nesting in the Coronado National Forest (2015)

 

McNeil, S. E. Insights from Five Years of Monitoring the Return of Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Restored Riparian Forests of the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

Stewart, L. R., M. J. Johnson, C. M. Calvo, and G. Bland. Yellow-billed Cuckoo Distribution, Breeding Status, and Habitat Use along the Lower Colorado River (2008)

 

Supplee, T. and Prager, S. Breeding Habitat Selection of the Western Distinct Population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo within Important Bird Areas (poster, 2016)

 

eBird

Harter, L. B. Using eBird Data: For Birders (2015)

 

Finches, Crossbills, and Grosbeaks

O'Donnell, R. P. Red Crossbill and Evening Grosbeak Call Types: Why and How to Identify Them (2015)

 

Flycatchers

Jenness, D. The Expansion of Tropical Kingbirds in Arizona (poster, 2013)

 

Darrah, A. J. and van Riper III, C. A. Breeding Ecology and the Use of Nesting Platforms of the Cordilleran Flycatcher in Southwest Colorado (poster, 2014)

 

McLeod, M.A. and Pellegrini, A. Effects of Tamarisk Beetles on Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Their Habitats (2012)

 

Hummingbirds

      Melton, C.W. Observations on the Occurrence of Breeding White-Eared Hummingbirds in

      Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona (2013)

   

      Simpson, R. K. and McGraw, K. J. The Evolution of Hummingbirds and Courtship (2016)

 

Owls

Moors, A. K. "Mexican" Spotted Owls and Fire in Southern Arizona (2013)

 

Richardson, S. The Status of the "Cactus" Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Arizona and Northern Mexico (2009)

 

Raptors

Collins, P. Common Black-Hawk Riparian Migration Corridors in Arizona (2013)

 

Dorr, S. and Theimer, T. Shades of Gray: Changes in Abundance of Gray Hawk Nests on the San Pedro River over 13 Years (2011)

 

Glinski, R. What Gale Taught Me About Raptors and So Many Other Things (2012)

 

Jacobson, K. Arizona Golden Eagle Management (poster, 2011)

 

Jenness, D. The Recent Movement of Crested Caracaras into Southern Pinal County (poster, 2012)

 

        - Ten Years of the Santa Cruz Flats Raptor Count (poster, 2015)

 

LaPorte,  A. Habitat, Diet, and Density: Gray Hawk Expansion on the San Pedro River (2014)

 

        - Gray Hawk Expansion on the San Pedro River: Density Dependence, Habitat, and Diet (2015)

 

        -Gray Hawk Expansion in the San Pedro River Valley: Habitat, Diet, and Density Dependence (2016)

 

Losee, M.J. Preliminary Findings: The Diet of Arizona’s Golden Eagle (poster, 2013)

 

        - Preliminary Findings: Golden Eagle Nesting Phenology (poster, 2016)

 

McCarty, K. M. The Arizona Bald Eagle Management Program (2011)

 

Norris, L. L. First Recorded Nesting of Crested Caracara in Saguaro National Park (2015)

 

Smith, Z. Monitoring Diurnal Raptors at a High-Elevation Site in the Central Highlands of Arizona (2015)

 

Riparian

Banville, M. A Decade's Change in an Urban Riparian Bird Community (2015)

 

Dodge, C. Results from Nine Years of Winter Banding and Bird Surveys on the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

        - A Summary of Bird Monitoring of Restoration Sites on the Lower Colorado River (2016)

 

 Hinojosa Huerta, O. Bringing Back the Colorado River Delta for People and Birds (2016)

 

Juarez, E., Corman, T. E., Arnett, J., and Beardmore, C., Population and Density Estimates of Breeding Birds in the Sonoran Desert and Riparian Habitats of Arizona (poster, 2016)

 

Leist, A. J., Fletcher, D. M., and Ammon, E. M. Riparian Bird Monitoring and Population Estimates for the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

Seabirds

Latas, P. J., Bates, M. L., Whitehead, and L. R., Richardson C. Hurricane Newton Meets Tucson Wildlife Center (2016)

 

Vander Pluym, D. A Look at the Seabirds of Arizona (2016)

 

Shorebirds

Corman, T. First Statewide Surveys of Wintering Mountain Plovers in Arizona (2011)

 

Sparrows

Bittner, S. and Deviche, P. Corticosterone's relationship with parental investment in a Sonoran Desert passerine, the Rufous-winged Sparrow (poster, 2011)

 

Davies, S. and Deviche, P. The influence of urbanization on the reproductive phenology and morphometrics of the Abert’s Towhee (poster, 2011)

 

Deviche, P. Prolonged Physiological Effects of Capture and Brief Restraints in Male Rufous-Winged Sparrows (2014)

 

        , Gao S., and Davies, S. Rapid effects of capture and handling on circulating hormone concentrations in the male Rufous-winged Sparrow (poster, 2011)

 

Grahame, J., Linda, T., Crouse, J., and Drost, C. Wintering Grasshopper Sparrows in the Verde Valley (poster, 2013)

 

Jenness, D. The Probable Breeding of Cassin's Sparrow  in Pinal County (poster, 2011)

 

McCreedy, C. Winter Distribution and Plumage Characteristics of Sagebrush and Bell's Sparrows in Arizona (2014)

 

 

Surveys

Beardmore, C. J. Bird Monitoring Expeditions to Mexico, 2008 and 2010 (poster, 2011)

 

        - Partners in Flight Landbird Plan Revision: What It Means for Arizona (2016)

 

Corman, T. E.. AZFO Volunteers in Action: Increasing Our Knowledge of Arizona Birds by Contributing to the Coordinated Bird Monitoring Program (2015)

 

Juarez, E., and Corman, T. Sonoran Desert Breeding Bird Surveys: A Coordinated Approach (poster, 2013)

 

Kondrat-Smith, C. Scientific Collecting Permits for Birds and Other Wildlife in Arizona (2015)

 

MacFarland, J. Arizona Important Bird Areas Program's Most Important Partner: Birders! (2013)

 

Vander Pluym, D. A Survey of Spring Migration at Lake Havasu with an Emphasis on Waterbirds (2014)

 

 

Swallows

MacFarland, J. Geotagging Purple Martins on the Lower San Pedro River (2014)

 

Piest, L.A. Developing Techniques to Document Migration of Tree Swallows along the Lower Colorado River (poster, 2012)

 

Tamarisk

Beatty, G. Tamarisk: An Inconvenient Truth (2011)

 

Thrashers

Arnett, J. E. Detection Rates of Thrashers Vary Between Seasons and Survey Methods (2011)

 

Trogons

Taylor, R. C. Recent Population Dynamics of Elegant Trogons in Southeast Arizona (2015)

 

Vireos

Arnett, J. E. Advances in Our Knowledge of the Winter Distribution of Gray Vireo in Arizona (poster, 2012)

    - Seasonality, Habitat, and Diet of Gray Vireos at Kofa NWR in Southwestern Arizona (2014)

 

Vultures and Condors

Hauck, T. A Recovery Effort: California Condor Distribution, Breeding, and Challenges in the Southwest Population (2016)

 

Waterfowl

Brown, D. E. Present Status of Mexican Ducks in Arizona and the Bird's Expansion into Tropic-Subtropic Wetlands (2014)

 

Vander Pluym, D. and Harter, L. Mexican Ducks in Arizona: An Overview of Identification and Distribution (2011)

 

Wildfire Effects

Hough, E. R. Exploring the Effects of Wildfires on the Avifauna within Arizona’s Life Zones: The Sky Islands and Beyond (2013)

 

Tomoff, C. Effects of the Spring 2011 Pickett Fire on Avian Life (2011)

 

Crouse, J. and, Huffman, D. Prescribed Fire, Resource Objective Fire, and Wildfire Effects on American Three-toed Woodpecker (poster, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

--Index (author)--

 

Arnett, J. E. Detection Rates of Thrashers Vary Between Seasons and Survey Methods (2011)

 

               -Advances in Our Knowledge of the Winter Distribution of Gray Vireo in Arizona    (poster, 2012)

              -Seasonality, Habitat, and Diet of Gray Vireos at Kofa NWR in Southwestern Arizona           (2014)

 

Banville, M. A Decade's Change in an Urban Riparian Bird Community (2015)

 

Beatty, G. Tamarisk: An Inconvenient Truth (2011)

 

Beardmore, C. J. Bird Monitoring Expeditions to Mexico, 2008 and 2010 (poster, 2011)

 

              - Partners in Flight Landbird Plan Revision: What It Means for Arizona (2016)

 

Bittner, S. and Deviche, P. Corticosterone's relationship with parental investment in a Sonoran Desert passerine, the Rufous-winged Sparrow (poster, 2011)

 

Brown, D. E. Present Status of Mexican Ducks in Arizona and the Bird's Expansion into Tropic-Subtropic Wetlands (2014)

 

Collins, P. Common Black-Hawk Riparian Migration Corridors in Arizona (2013)

 

Conring, C. C., Grisham, B. A., Conway, W. C. Spatial Ecology of the Lower Colorado River Valley Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes (2016)

 

Corman, T. E. First Statewide Surveys of Wintering Mountain Plovers in Arizona (2011)

 

              -AZFO Volunteers in Action: Increasing Our Knowledge of Arizona Birds by Contributing to the Coordinated Bird Monitoring Program (2015)

 

Crouse, J. and Huffman, D. Prescribed Fire, Resource Objective Fire, and Wildfire Effects on American Three-toed Woodpecker (poster, 2016)

 

Darrah, A. J. and van Riper III, C. Breeding Ecology and the Use of Nesting Platforms of the Cordilleran Flycatcher in Southwest Colorado (poster, 2014)

 

Davies, S. and Deviche, P. The influence of urbanization on the reproductive phenology and morphometrics of the Abert’s Towhee (poster, 2011)

 

Deviche, P. Prolonged Physiological Effects of Capture and Brief Restraints in Male Rufous-Winged Sparrows (2014

 

-, Gao S., and Davies, S. Rapid effects of capture and handling on circulating hormone concentrations in the male Rufous-winged Sparrow (poster, 2011)

 

Dodge, C. Results from Nine Years of Winter Banding and Bird Surveys on the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

              - A Summary of Bird Monitoring of Restoration Sites on the Lower Colorado River (2016)

 

Dorr, S. and Theimer, T. Shades of Gray: Changes in Abundance of Gray Hawk Nests on the San Pedro River over 13 Years (2011)

 

Glinski, R. What Gale Taught Me about Raptors and So Many Other Things (2012)

 

Grahame, J., Linda, T., Crouse, J., and Drost, C. Wintering Grasshopper Sparrows in the Verde Valley (poster, 2013)

 

Harter, L. B. Using eBird Data: For Birders (2015)

 

Hauck, T. A Recovery Effort: California Condor Distribution, Breeding, and Challenges in the Southwest Population (2016)

 

Hinojosa Huerta, O. Bringing Back the Colorado River Delta for People and Birds (2016)

 

Hough, E. R. Exploring the Effects of Wildfires on the Avifauna within Arizona’s Life Zones: The Sky Islands and Beyond (2013)

 

- An Update on Neotropic Cormorants in Arizona: Using Citizen Science Data to Explore Trends in Range Expansion (2014)

 

Jacobson, K. Arizona Golden Eagle Management (poster, 2011)

 

Jenness, D. The Probable Breeding of Cassin's Sparrow in Pinal County (poster, 2011)

 

              - The Recent Movement of Crested Caracaras into Southern Pinal County (poster, 2012)

 

              - The Expansion of Tropical Kingbirds in Arizona (poster, 2013)

 

        - Ten Years of the Santa Cruz Flats Raptor Count (poster, 2015)

 

Juarez, E., and Corman, T. Sonoran Desert Breeding Bird Surveys: A Coordinated Approach (poster, 2013)

 

              -, Arnett, J, and Beardmore, C. Population and Density Estimates of Breeding Birds in the Sonoran Desert and Riparian Habitats of Arizona (poster, 2016)

 

 

LaPorte, A. Habitat, Diet, and Density: Gray Hawk Expansion on the San Pedro River (2014)

 

        - Gray Hawk Expansion on the San Pedro River: Density Dependence, Habitat, and Diet (2015)

 

        - Gray Hawk Expansion in the San Pedro River Valley: Habitat, Diet, and Density Dependence (2016)

 

Latas, P. J., Bates, M. L., Whitehead, L. R., Richardson C. Hurricane Newton Meets Tucson Wildlife Center (2016)

 

Leist, A. J., Fletcher, D. M., and Ammon, E. M. Riparian Bird Monitoring and Population Estimates for the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

Losee, M.J. Preliminary Findings: The Diet of Arizona’s Golden Eagle (poster, 2013)

 

              -Preliminary Findings: Golden Eagle Nesting Phenology (poster, 2016)

 

McCarty, K. M. The Arizona Bald Eagle Management Program (2011)

 

MacFarland, J. Arizona Important Bird Areas Program's Most Important Partner: Birders! (2013)

 

- Geotagging Purple Martins on the Lower San Pedro River (2014)

 

- Yellow-billed Cuckoo Nesting in the Coronado National Forest (2015)

 

McCreedy,  C. Winter Distribution and Plumage Characteristics of Sagebrush and Bell's Sparrows in Arizona (2014)

 

McLeod, M.A. and Pellegrini, A. Effects of Tamarisk Beetles on Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Their Habitats (2012)

 

McNeil, S. E. Insights from Five Years of Monitoring the Return of Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Restored Riparian Forests of the Lower Colorado River (2012)

 

Melton, C.W. Observations on the Occurrence of Breeding White-Eared Hummingbirds in Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona (2013)

 

Moors, A. K. "Mexican" Spotted Owls and Fire in Southern Arizona (2013)

 

Norris, L.L. First Recorded Nesting of Crested Caracara in Saguaro National Park (2015)

 

O'Donnell, R. P. Red Crossbill and Evening Grosbeak Call Types: Why and How to Identify Them (2015)

 

Piest, L.A. Developing Techniques to Document Migration of Tree Swallows along the Lower Colorado River (poster, 2012)

 

Richardson, S. The Status of the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Arizona and Northern Mexico (2009)

 

Simpson, R. K. The Evolution of Hummingbird Coloration and Courtship (2016)

 

Smith, Z. Monitoring Diurnal Raptors at a High-Elevation Site in the Central Highlands of Arizona (2015)

 

Stewart, L. R., M. J. Johnson, C. M. Calvo, and G. Bland. Yellow-billed Cuckoo Distribution, Breeding Status, and Habitat Use along the Lower Colorado River (2008)

 

Supplee, T. and Prager, S. Breeding Habitat Selection of the Western Distinct Population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo within Important Bird Areas (poster, 2016)

 

Tomoff, C. Effects of the Spring 2011 Pickett Fire on Avian Life (2011)

 

Vander Pluym, D. and Harter, L. Mexican Ducks in Arizona: An Overview of Identification and Distribution (2011)

 

Vander Pluym, D. A Survey of Spring Migration at Lake Havasu with an Emphasis on Waterbirds (2014)

 

              - A Look at the Seabirds of Arizona (2016)

 

Papers

 

2008

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Distribution, Breeding Status, and Habitat Use Along the Lower Colorado River, Stewart, L. R., M. J. Johnson, C. M. Calvo, G. Bland, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011

 

We documented western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis) distribution, abundance, and habitat use along the Lower Colorado River within the Multi-Species Conservation Plan boundary area. We conducted cuckoo surveys using playback recordings. Cuckoos were detected at 32% of the areas surveyed in 2006 and 35% of the areas in 2007. In 2006, the majority of the cuckoo detections occurred at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge AZ sites (n = 117) and the Grand Canyon National Park–Lake Mead National Recreation Area AZ delta sites (n = 29 detections). In 2007, most of the detections again occurred at Bill Williams River NWR (n = 140 detection), while at the Grand Canyon-Lake Mead sites we did not detect cuckoos. The sudden absence of cuckoos at the Lake Mead Delta sites may be due to the ongoing drought, which affects water levels in Lake Mead Reservoir and the amount of water available to the riparian vegetation the cuckoo depends on. We compared the distribution and abundance of woody species between occupied and unoccupied sites. Occupied sites tended to have higher average canopy cover, attributable to higher average cover of the mid and low canopy. In addition, occupied sites in most areas had lower than average total tree density whereas unoccupied sites were denser than average. When densities of trees in different size classes were compared between occupied and unoccupied sites within areas, it appeared that cuckoos did not use sites with the highest density of small trees (< 8 cm dbh), mostly tamarisk.

 

We also measured microclimate variables (temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture) at occupied and unoccupied sites at Grand Canyon NP–Lake Mead NRA and Bill Williams River NWR. We found that locations occupied by Yellow-billed Cuckoos were generally slightly cooler and more humid than unoccupied sites.

 

 

2009

 

The Status of the "Cactus" Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Arizona and Northern Mexico, Richardson, Scott, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services, Tucson, AZ.

 

The "Cactus" Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) is a small, reddish-colored owl that inhabits portions of the southern U.S. and Mexico. The species lacks ear tufts and the tail is relatively long for an owl. The crown is lightly streaked, and a pair of dark brown/black spots outlined in white occurs on the nape, suggesting “eyes”. Pygmy-owls have large feet and talons relative to their body size and are fearless predators.

 

Few birds have generated as much controversy and interest in the southwestern U.S. as the pygmy-owl has. Little was known of this species until it was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1997. While Texas and Mexico were considered under the original listing proposal, the pygmy-owl was ultimately listed only in Arizona. With this listing, residents of Arizona came face-to-face with the realities of ESA enforcement. What followed were many years of controversy, lawsuits, and attempts to understand the needs of the pygmy-owl. The listing of the pygmy-owl generated more interest and resources to study this species, but it also generated conflict and misunderstanding. Research and monitoring were intensified in both Arizona and northern Mexico. Survey efforts were expanded because survey clearance was required for land-use activities. Genetic studies were initiated at Texas A&M University, in addition to their ongoing natural history work on pygmy-owls in Texas. However, the listing, designation of critical habitat, development of a survey protocol, and conflicts with development all lead to scrutiny, questions, and, ultimately, lawsuits. The listing did spark beneficial regional environmental planning efforts and the conservation of important habitats in southern Arizona. Declines in pygmy-owl populations in Arizona and northern Mexico were documented. However, when the extended court battles were finally resolved, the result was the delisting of the pygmy-owl in 1996.

 

Efforts to better understand and conserve the pygmy-owl have been continued post-delisting. Research related to the effectiveness of nest boxes and captive breeding were initiated. Additional genetic sampling occurred in Sonora and Sinaloa in northern Mexico. Population monitoring and telemetry work has continued in Sonora, Mexico through the University of Arizona. Unfortunately, pygmy-owl population declines continue to be evident in both Arizona and northern Mexico.

 

In March of 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was petitioned to relist the pygmy-owl under the ESA. This new petition included a request to consider a change in taxonomic classification and to include populations in Mexico in the analysis. In June of 2008, the FWS issued a 90-day finding on the petition that indicated that the petition was valid and that listing of the pygmy-owl under the ESA may be warranted (73 FR 31418). That finding initiated a more detailed 12-month status review that will determine whether the pygmy-owl does or does not warrant listing. The 12-month finding is expected early in 2010. In the meantime, efforts continue related to captive breeding, nest box investigations, refining the genetic analysis, habitat conservation planning, and cooperation with Mexico to achieve conservation of the pygmy-owl.

 

 

 

2011

 

Detection Rates of Thrashers Vary Between Seasons and Survey Methods, Arnett, J. E.

56th Range Management Office, 7101 Jerstad Luke AFB, AZ 85309-1647

John.arnett@luke.af.mil.

 

Because detection probability affects counts and population estimates of wildlife populations, sources of variation in detectability should be explicitly addressed and quantified. In this study, we examined detection rates of Le Conte’s Thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei, LCTH) and congeners between two seasons [winter (January-February) and spring (April-May)] and two survey methods (passive observation and call-broadcast). Surveys were conducted at stop locations of 15 Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and three ad hoc routes within the Sonoran/Mojave BCR in Arizona. LCTH detection rates were lowest (0.01 bird/route) during spring passive surveys, moderate (0.04 bird/route) during winter passive surveys, and greatest (0.08 bird/route) during winter playback surveys. Other thrasher species responded vigorously to the broadcast LCTH song. Crissal Thrasher (T. crissale) detections doubled (winter) and quadrupled (spring) in response to the LCTH song and, in general, were greater in winter than spring. Curve-billed Thrasher (T. curvirostre) detections increased in response to the LCTH song, but during passive surveys this species was 50% more detectable in spring than winter. Our results suggest that data collected in April and May, when BBS routes are typically conducted, may provide biased counts and spatial distributions of Le Conte’s and Crissal Thrashers. Development pressure on thrasher habitat has increased our need for unbiased population estimates and spatial occurrence data for these species. We recommend targeted surveys occur when detectability is highest (January-February). Though broadcast surveys significantly improve detection rates for thrashers, surveyors should apply this method judiciously to avoid disturbing these species during the breeding season.

 

 

Tamarisk: An Inconvenient Truth, Beatty, Greg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, Arizona 85021

Greg_Beatty@fws.gov

The federally endangered southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) uses the exotic plant tamarisk in just over 50 percent of all known flycatcher territories. Therefore, this plant plays an important role in its persistence, success, and recovery. However, there is a concurrent effort to remove tamarisk throughout the flycatcher's range, because of the long-held beliefs that removing tamarisk will save water, improve wildlife, and lead to native riparian plant recovery. Contributing to the effort to remove tamarisk, an exotic tamarisk-eating leaf beetle was introduced recently into the western United States. This insect was not anticipated to be able to occur or persist in the southwestern United States, but is now thriving and spreading in southern Nevada and Utah as well as northern Arizona and New Mexico. I will provide a broad overview and discuss the role of tamarisk in flycatcher recovery, the varying points of view of tamarisk, introduction of the tamarisk leaf beetle, and the future outlook of these combined issues.

First Statewide Surveys of Wintering Mountain Plovers in Arizona,
Corman, T. E.

3918 E. Laurel Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85023, aplomado@cox.net

 

Like many grassland species, Mountain Plover populations have declined across their range and are a species of concern in most states and provinces in which they occur. The winter distribution and abundance of these plovers in Arizona is quite incomplete. With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and similar efforts in southern California, AZFO coordinated the first ever statewide surveys for Mountain Plovers during the winter of 2010-2011. The number of plovers detected was fewer than expected, but similar poor results were also obtained in California, suggesting wintering populations in the Southwest were well below normal levels this past winter. There is potential for conducting additional surveys during the winter of 2011-2012 in an effort to assess current population levels.

 

Shades of Gray: Changes in Abundance of Gray Hawk Nests on the San Pedro River over 13 Years, Samantha Dorr, Tad Theimer,Department of Biology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff AZ 86011, Samantha.Dorr@nau.edu; Matthew Johnson, Jennifer Holmes, Colorado Plateau Research Station, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011

 

We conducted surveys for Gray Hawks in the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area (SPRNCA) in southeastern Arizona 2010-11. Gray Hawks have been historically studied in this area, which gives us a unique opportunity to study changes in their distribution and abundance over time. When compared to previously collected data, Gray Hawk territories have increased from an average of 25 territories per year 1995-97 to an average of 54 territories per year 2010-11. While we did not find a strong relationship between mesquite height and number of young produced per nest, our data express a pattern in which nest initiation date is correlated with number of young produced per nest and that nests at lower elevations also initiate earlier in the season. With these patterns, we argue that nest initiation date could be used as an indicator for habitat quality with Gray Hawks. In addition, previously unoccupied habitats within the SPRCA are currently successful breeding habitats, so we will use NDVI to assess whether this change is due to Gray Hawks occupying marginal habitats, or if the riparian vegetation within the SPRNCA is expanding.

 

The Arizona Bald Eagle Management Program, McCarty, Kyle M., Arizona Game and Fish Department,5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086, kmccarty@azgfd.gov.

 

For more than 30 years, Arizona’s nesting Bald Eagles have been monitored, studied, and conserved by numerous partners, represented as the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee since 1984. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been the lead agency in management efforts for the species since 1991, annually conducting nest searches and productivity assessments, demography studies (banding nestlings and identifying banded adults), seasonal closures, the Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program, mortality and threat tracking, and coordinating a winter count. The bald eagle breeding population in Arizona has increased 600% since 1978 and expanded into new areas of the state. Productivity (fledged young per occupied breeding area) averaged 0.92 from 2002 to 2011. In 2011, 55 of the 62 known breeding areas were occupied and fledged 56 young. Breeding density varies from as high as one breeding area per 5 km of river on the lower Verde River, to one per 22.4 km on the upper Verde and Salt rivers. Of 152 breeders in 1987-2003, 81 were of undetermined origin (unbanded or unidentified), 70 were Arizona-born, and one was born outside of Arizona. Most adults (86%) breed within 150 km of their natal area, with females (average 109.7 km, n=21) dispersing farther than males (45.1 km, n=35). The average tenure in a breeding area for an adult is 9.8 years (n=83).

 

Effects of the Spring 2011 Pickett Fire on Avian Life, Carl Tomoff, Prescott College, Prescott AZ, tomoff@northlink.com

 

The Pickett Fire swept through 1300 acres of Sonoran Desert vegetation west of Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Pinal Co. on May 8-9, 2011. Responses to habitat changes by breeding birds were observed between May and early September. Some species stopped breeding while others continued or resumed nesting activity. Vignettes describing these responses are presented for species using saguaros, chollas, shrubs, or trees for nest sites.

 

 

Mexican Ducks in Arizona: An Overview of Identification and Distribution, Vander Pluym, David and Harter, Lauren, 2841 McCullough Blvd. N. #1, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403, scre@aol.com, lbharter@gmail.com

 

The Mexican Duck, Anas platyrhynchos diazi, though apparently declining within its historic range in Mexico, appears to be expanding its range within the United States. In Arizona the taxon is known mainly from the southeast corner of the state, but individuals have been found throughout Arizona in recent years. Identification of Mexican Ducks in Arizona is complicated, with a large range of variation including intergrades with “Northern” Mallard. Though the Mexican Duck is currently considered a subspecies of Mallard, recent genetic data suggest it is more closely related to other monochromatic Mallard-like species. This evidence suggests that the Mexican Duck deserves specific rank, which has renewed interest among ornithologists and birders. We will discuss identification criteria as well as the recent range expansion and current distribution of this taxon in Arizona.

 

 

2012

Results from Nine Years of Winter Banding and Bird Surveys on the Lower Colorado River

 Dodge, Chris, Bureau of Reclamation and LCR MSCP; Boulder City, NV, 89006   

 

For nine years, starting in the fall of 2002, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program conducted a winter banding program using a mist net capture scheme at several restoration sites along the Lower Colorado River. Mist netting was conducted at two or three sites each year and was conducted from October to March. These restoration sites were comprised of dense plantings of cottonwood (Populus fremontii), willow (Salix spp.) and some mesquite (Prosopis spp.). Three species were captured consistently in each year at each site; these species were the Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), and the Audubon’s subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata auduboni). Other species showed high capture rates in one year but low capture rates in most other years indicating a possible irruptive pattern to winter use by several species. Area searches were also conducted and compared to the mist-netting results. Overall the mist-netting was more effective at determining the number and abundance of species present, although both methods detected species that the other method did not.

 

What Gale Taught Me About Raptors and So Many Other Things
Glinski, R.,
editor of "Raptors of Arizona," and Park Supervisor, Desert Outdoor Center at Lake Pleasant, Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Dept. rich.glinski@gmail.com

In my view Gale Monson left us two incredible gifts: for those lucky enough to know him, he was a great friend and teacher, and for the rest is a collection of writings that likely is among the most detailed natural history accounts ever recorded. Gale's connection to the natural world was amazing, but his tendency to reach out to others was inspiring. Since his passing in February of this year, Bill Broyles and I have assembled a collection of remembrances about Gale from those whose lives he touched, and that process has left me pondering Joni Mitchell's song... "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

 

Riparian Bird Monitoring and Population Estimates for the Lower Colorado River, A. J. Leist, D.M. Fletcher, and E.M. Ammon, Great Basin Bird Observatory, Reno, Nevada, USA; Laura Sabin U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder City, NV

 

The lower Colorado River is a major center of bird diversity of the U.S. Southwest, and significant efforts are currently underway through the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (USBOR) to re-establish native riparian habitats. Toward this effort our work aims to estimate current population density of breeding riparian birds as a baseline for long-term population monitoring throughout the lower Colorado River system and to identify critical habitat requirements that can serve as guidelines for restoration of riparian habitats. Our focus for this project is on six species covered by the LCR MSCP (Gilded Flicker Colaptes chrysoides, Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis, Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus, Arizona Bell’s Vireo Vireo bellii arizonae, Sonoran Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia sonorana, and Summer Tanager Piranga rubra). To survey for riparian birds we use a double-sampling area search spot mapping method. We conducted surveys at 80 randomly selected plots and in all established habitat creation sites each spring from 2007 through 2012. Plots were surveyed twice during the breeding season using a rapid area search method, with a sub-sample of these plots surveyed intensively (eight times during the breeding season) to determine actual numbers of breeding birds present in each plot. For this talk we will be giving an overview of our findings from the past five years and will discuss habitat requirements for species of interest.

 

 

Effects of Tamarisk Beetles on Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Their Habitats

McLeod, M.A. and Pellegrini, A., SWCA Environmental Consultants, 114 N. San Francisco Street, Suite 100, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, Presenting author: mmcleod@swca.com 928-774-5500 x4207

 

The southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) is an endangered migratory passerine that breeds in dense, mesic habitats in the southwestern U.S. Occupied areas include native (e.g., willow), non-native (tamarisk), and mixed vegetation with inundated or saturated soils. Starting in 2001, tamarisk leaf beetles (Diorhabda spp.) were released in the western U.S. as a biocontrol agent for tamarisk. The beetle now defoliates tamarisk annually along extensive river reaches, including areas occupied by southwestern willow flycatchers along the Virgin and Muddy rivers. The defoliation caused by tamarisk leaf beetles in areas of exotic or mixed vegetation alters flycatcher habitat in ways that are detrimental to the reproductive success of breeding flycatchers. Data from breeding flycatchers in St. George, Utah from 2008–12 suggest that reproductive success in tamarisk stands in the presence of tamarisk leaf beetles is poor, but that flycatchers may move into nearby, suitable native vegetation in subsequent years. At the end of the flycatcher breeding season in 2011, beetles reached the largest flycatcher breeding site along the Virgin River at Mormon Mesa near Overton, Nevada, and tamarisk within this mixed site was defoliated throughout the 2012 breeding season. Flycatchers at Mormon Mesa in 2012 had lower than average clutch sizes and fecundity, a higher than average rate of nest desertion, and fewer renests following failed nests. There are no suitable stands of native vegetation in the vicinity, and studies need to continue in 2013 to determine how flycatcher site fidelity will be affected by tamarisk beetles.

 

Insights from Five Years of Monitoring the Return of Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Restored Riparian Forests of the Lower Colorado River, McNeil, S. E., 1708 E 9th St., Tucson, AZ 85719

 

Yellow-billed cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus) have suffered steep declines over the past century and are now rare breeding migrants to remnant riparian forests of the western United States. Following seven years of habitat restoration under the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR MSCP), Yellow-billed Cuckoos are colonizing new cottonwood-willow forests within the historic floodplain of the LCR. The cryptic nature of Yellow-billed Cuckoos has for decades confounded attempts at measuring their basic life-history traits; however, improvements in capture techniques and the opportunity to study these elusive birds over a relatively long period have provided new insights into their ecology and response to habitat restoration. From five years of capturing, color-banding, and radio-tracking cuckoos in restored LCR riparian forest patches in Arizona and California, we have found increases in breeding evidence each year, from just two confirmed breeding territories in 2008 to over 30 in 2012. Contrary to the idea that cuckoos require mature forest for nesting, we have found nests in new habitat patches after just two growing seasons. We also observed high site fidelity and limited between-site dispersal within the study area; of 15 confirmed resights from 2009-2012, all but two returned to the natal or previous breeding site. It remains unclear whether sufficient breeding habitat and connectivity exists in this fragmented western landscape for recovery of a viable western Yellow-billed Cuckoo population.

 

 

2013

 

Common Black-Hawk Riparian Migration Corridors in Arizona, Collins, Peter 13934 E Placita flor del Desierto Vail, AZ 85641, pcollins AT houstone.com

 

In the mid 2000s, local birders detected a Common Black-Hawk spring migration route along the Santa Cruz River near Tubac. In 2008 over 40 Black Hawks were recorded in 90 minutes. This led to increasing efforts to quantify the migration, pooling reports from two observation sites, the Tubac Bridge and the Ron Morris County Park. In 2012 a 13-day count was conducted from the bridge, counting 92 Black-Hawks, 28 Zone-tailed Hawks and a variety of other raptors. Count days typically covered three hours each morning. Careful merging of reports from the park and nearby sites indicated 109 Black-Hawks could be observed, a large percentage of the Arizona population estimate. In 2013 a 31-day count was conducted from Ron Morris Park. Over twice as many Black-Hawks (231) were observed during 188 observation hours, suggesting this area of the Santa Cruz River is a significant riparian migration corridor. Overnight roosts along the river south of the park in an otherwise barren area are likely concentrating migrating birds near the park. An exploratory count organized by Erika Wilson at the Charleston Bridge on the San Pedro River well east counted nine Black-Hawks over 18 March mornings, many emerging from overnight roosts along the river, supporting the premise that Black-Hawks are using riparian migration corridors when returning to Arizona. All Black-Hawks at these two counts were adults. There are reports of immature hawks in late April along the Santa Cruz, encouraging an extended count period in future years.

 

 

Exploring the Effects of Wildfires on the Avifauna within Arizona’s Life Zones: The Sky Islands and Beyond, Hough, E. R., P.O. Box 2842, Overgaard, AZ 85933, thebirdwhisperer22 AT yahoo.com

 

Populations of bird species are adapted to particular biotic communities and are thus affected when environmental disturbances occur. Fires are a naturally-occurring disturbance within arid ecosystems and are intertwined with secondary seral succession. However, due to decades of fire suppression by humans, altered seasonality of fires, invasion by exotic-invasive plant species that alter fire regimes, and increased occurrence and severity of drought conditions associated with climate change, fires have now become more frequent, larger scale, and are burning with higher intensity. Avian communities are thereby also affected in response to changing fire regimes, with many species being either positively or negatively impacted across the landscape in regards to suitable nesting substrates and microclimates, food availability, and predation risk. The state of Arizona is one such arid region that has experienced more catastrophic fires across the landscape in recent years than during historical conditions, which are already impacting the state’s diverse avifauna. This presentation will explore how fire will likely impact the avifauna within Arizona’s several life zones, including the representative southeastern Arizona “sky islands” as well as other affected areas of the state, and which bird species are likely to be winners or losers following these disturbances.

 

 

2014

 

Arizona Important Bird Areas Program's Most Important Partner: Birders! , MacFarland, J., Conservation Biologist, Tucson Audubon Society, 300 E. University Blvd., #120, Tucson, AZ 85705, jmacfarland AT tucsonaudubon.org

 

There are currently 43 identified Important Bird Areas in Arizona. Thirteen of these areas have been officially recognized as Global IBAs and are part of an international network of sites that maintain the long-term viability of wild bird populations while engaging the public to conserve those areas of critical habitat. This would not have been possible without the help of over 500 skilled birders generously giving their time over the past 10 years. Thousands of surveys containing hundreds of thousands of observations made by trained volunteer birders make up the Arizona IBA database. Examples of this successful partnership will be presented here, along with a summary of the IBA program itself, the amazing contributions of its volunteers, some of the great expeditions we have done with partners such as AZFO, and some of the data we have collected.

 

Observations on the Occurrence of Breeding White-Eared Hummingbirds in Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona, Melton, C.W., PO Box 592, Hereford, AZ 85615, cwmelton AT nearfamous.com

 

The White-eared Hummingbird (Hylocharis leucotis) is a rare summer resident anywhere north of Mexico, and is most easily observed by birdwatchers at feeding stations in just a few locations in southeastern Arizona. Even rarer are observations of nesting individuals. During the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas surveys in the 1990s, only two nests were confirmed. During the spring and summer of 2013, observations were made of White-eared Hummingbirds in Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. One nest was observed and its progress was followed. Shortly after the young fledged a second nesting attempt was begun. Utilizing photographs and video for comparison, at least four different individuals were seen, excluding nestlings and recent fledglings. These observations will be summarized and presented, and will also include comments on wing molt.

 

 

Mexican" Spotted Owls and Fire in Southern Arizona, Moors, A. K., Moors Wildlife Management Services, 1217 Crestwood Drive, Globe, AZ 85501, amoors AT cableone.net

 

Stand-replacing wildfires are listed as a major threat to the continued existence of "Mexican" Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis lucida), according to the 2012 Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. Arizona has seen an increasing number of large wildfires in the last decade. However, it is unclear how Spotted Owls actually respond to fire. During the last decade, I have been monitoring Spotted Owl territories in several mountain ranges in southern Arizona both before and after major wildfires. Owl surveys were conducted using the standard survey protocol developed by the USFS and USFWS. I have found that most pairs of Spotted Owls will continue to live and reproduce in territories that have burned, as long as the roosting and nesting groves still remain intact. Because Spotted Owls tend to select the coolest and moistest areas to roost and nest, those areas are more likely to survive a fire than other parts of their territories. I have found that in the years post-fire, Spotted Owls will often have exceptionally high reproductive rates.

 

A Survey of Spring Migration at Lake Havasu with an Emphasis on Waterbirds,

Vander Pluym, David,2841 McCulloch Blvd N. #1, Lake Havasu City, AZ, 86403
scre@aol.com

 

The development of reservoirs along the Colorado River has changed the ecology of the region and offered habitat for many species of aquatic birds where none existed historically. Aquatic bird surveys were done to look at use of the location as a stopover site and to gain an understanding of what species may now use the area regularly in migration. I conducted surveys at the north end of Lake Havasu between mid-March and mid-May 2014. The main focus was on aquatic bird migration, although landbirds were also counted. An attempt was made to use sound recording equipment to detect nocturnal migration. This was done to see how effective this type of survey method would be, with negative results. A total of 41,292 individuals representing 59 species of landbirds and a total of 42,519 individuals representing 57 species of waterbirds were detected, excluding likely resident and breeding species, but including some likely wintering birds. Several aquatic species formerly considered rare were found regularly during the survey period and in recent years or were found in higher numbers than previously recorded, such as Common Loon, Eared Grebe, Red-necked Phalarope, and Bonaparte’s and Franklin’s gulls. This information can be used to judge future changes in aquatic bird use of reservoirs along the Colorado River.

 

 

Seasonality, Habitat, and Diet of Gray Vireos at Kofa NWR in Southwestern Arizona,

Arnett, J. E., 7101 Jerstad Lane, Bldg. 500 Luke AFB, AZ 85309

Kondrat-Smith, C.  (presenting author), 27324 N 219 Ave., Wittmann, AZ 85361

azdesertbird [at] gmail.com

 

The winter distribution of Gray Vireo (Vireo vicinior) closely matches the distribution of small trees in the genus Bursera, particularly elephant tree (B. microphylla), that produce calorie-rich fruits.  Thus, it is surprising that Gray Vireos have been reported by Gale Monson and others during the winter at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (Kofa) in southwestern Arizona where no Bursera occur. Additionally, recent observations suggest that Kofa is an important early (e.g., late February and early March) migration stopover for north-bound vireos. To examine vireo occurrence and diet at Kofa, we conducted seven surveys from December 2012 to May 2013 at three canyons and two valley xeroriparian washes. We detected a surprisingly high number of vireos in December, including eight at Alamo Wash. Subsequently, a dramatic drop in vireo detections coincided with a hard freeze, followed by a gradual increase in detections in late March and April. We observed vireos eating caterpillars and possibly spiders.  We did not observe vireos eating fruit, though mistletoe and wolfberry fruits were plentiful. We conclude Gray Vireos may be more widespread than previously thought during the autumn and winter where arthropod prey is available and B. microphylla is absent until the first hard freeze occurs, after when vireos likely move to where B. microphylla fruit is available. Our results suggest that a winter-time monitoring strategy for the vireo and its habitat would need to consider the plasticity of the vireo’s winter distribution, diet, and habitat use.

 

 

Winter Distribution and Plumage Characteristics of Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows in Arizona, McCreedy, C.,3820 Cypress Dr., Petaluma, CA  94954, cmccreedy@pointblue.org

Kovach, A., G87 Rudman Hall, 46 College Rd., Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, 03824

Lester, M., 501 E 1st Ave #3, Salt Lake City, UT

 

The American Ornithologists’ Union recently split the former Sage Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli) into two taxa, Sagebrush Sparrow (A. nevadensis) and Bell’s Sparrow (A. belli).  Sagebrush Sparrow and the interior subspecies of Bell’s Sparrow (A.b. canescens) have similar plumage characteristics and call notes, and these similarities render separation of the two taxa problematic in the field.  Both Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrow winter in Arizona, and their respective wintering distributions in the state are not well understood. In February 2014 we captured 85 Artemisiospiza sparrows at five sites representing five distinct vegetation assemblages across southern and western Arizona. We used plumage and morphological characteristics described in previous work to identify 74 individuals in the hand; one bird was left unidentified due to ambiguity in its plumage characteristics and in its intermediate wing size.  To test our field identifications, we sampled blood from these 75 individuals to establish sex and genetic identification. Our field identifications were consistent with lab classification for 68 of 74 (92%) of our samples. We are further sequencing the gene for the remaining 6 samples, as the restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) approach used by previous authors does not differentiate the species 100%.  Our field identification success rate is thus preliminary and is a minimum. Preliminary results (considering only the 68 individuals with matching classifications) reveal that mixing between the two species was rare.  At four sites only one species was present.  At Robbins Butte (Maricopa Co.), 26 of 30 captures were identified as Bell’s Sparrow (87%).  This segregation was unexpected and suggests the two species hold divergent habitat preferences on their wintering grounds in Arizona. We photographed all captures from multiple views, and we will also discuss key identification points that may be used to separate these species in the field.

 

 

 

2015

Monitoring Diurnal Raptor Migration at a High-Elevation Site in the Central Highlands of Arizona: A Pilot Study during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, Smith, Zachary, Independent Raptor Biologist, 843 N. Citrus Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038, zsgavilan@gmail.com, gavilanphoto.smugmug.com

Monitoring raptor migration at strategic locations has been in practice for several decades at numerous sites across North America. Most migrant raptor species are difficult to monitor during the breeding season and migration counts can provide data to help track population changes. Sites in western United States are typically located on north-south trending mountain ridges that create orographic wind currents that provide energy-saving lift for migrant birds. During the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014, I made observations of migrant raptors from the Sierra Prieta Overlook in the Bradshaw Mountains west of Prescott, Arizona. The most common species observed during fall include Turkey Vulture (35% of flight), Cooper's Hawk (22%), Sharp-shinned Hawk (15%), Red-tailed Hawk (10%), and American Kestrel (9%). During spring, the most commonly seen species were Cooper's Hawk (24%), Swainson's Hawk (21%), Turkey Vulture (21%), and Sharp-shinned Hawk (11%). The majority of birds observed passed the site on days when the wind direction had a westerly component.

 

Gray Hawk Expansion on the San Pedro River: Density Dependence, Habitat, and Diet, La Porte, A., School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, PO Box 874501, AZ 85287, Email: ariana.laporte@gmail.com Website: http://azgrayhawks.tumblr.com Twitter: @AZGrayHawks

The Gray Hawk population along the San Pedro River has been expanding since it was first documented in the late 1970s. Gray Hawks first settled the northern areas of the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area (SPRNCA), where mesquite flanks the cottonwood gallery. But within the last two decades they have begun nesting in the southern, grassy end of the SPRNCA, and in the sycamore, juniper, and Madrean oak forests of the Huachuca Mountains. What might this population expansion indicate? The Fretwell-Lucas model of habitat selection states that preferred areas are settled first, and “overflow” individuals are consigned to lower quality habitats where productivity is lower. But are grassland and oak forest marginal habitat for these raptors? I am comparing Gray Hawk productivity and diet of pairs in these newly settled areas to those in historically occupied ones to determine how these raptors use different types of habitat and whether the Fretwell-Lucas model of population growth applies. Preliminary results suggest that overall productivity has not declined as the population has expanded. Though the percentage of nests that succeed is lower in newly settled areas, successful pairs produce more chicks in grassland and oak territories than those in historically occupied mesquite ones. These observations are from the 2015 breeding season only, and further research will determine whether these patterns hold over time. More data are needed to support a robust conclusion.

 

First Recorded Nesting of Crested Caracara in Saguaro National Park, Norris, L. L., Adjunct Professor, The Southwest Center, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0185, llnorris@email.arizona.edu

 

A nesting pair of Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) was discovered in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro NP on 24 March 2015 by a National Park Service (NPS) resources management crew. Norris was asked by the NPS to set up a monitoring plan for this first known nesting of this species in the park. Brian Walsh, Pima County Water Reclamation, assisted in the field work. Generally, twice a week monitoring sessions were conducted over the next 76 days, lasting until a few days after fledging. Data were collected on behavior of adult caracaras at the nest, development of young in the nest, frequency of foraging efforts, food transfers and food drops at the nest, types of prey items brought to the nest, and feeding behavior. Ultimately, two young were successfully fledged from the nest. The cooler than normal spring weather may have assisted the successful fledging.

 

Recent Population Dynamics of Elegant Trogons in Southeast Arizona, Taylor, R. C., 2875 Hilltop Rd., Portal, AZ 85632, richardcachortaylor@gmail.com

 

Annual late spring population surveys of Elegant Trogons (Trogon elegans) in the Chiricahua Mountains have been conducted using volunteer observers since 1978, and, intermittently, in the Huachuca Mountains since 1981. Beginning in 2013, with the help of volunteers recruited by the Tucson Audubon Society, similar surveys have been undertaken in the Atascosa, Santa Rita, and Patagonia Mountains, as well as continuing in the Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains. Protocols for conducting trogon censuses, as well as the problems obtaining reliable results, are discussed. Population trends are reviewed for all five mountain ranges presently known to harbor breeding Elegant Trogons, as well as possible explanations for population changes.

 

Red Crossbill and Evening Grosbeak Call Types: Why and How to Identify Them, O’Donnell, R. P., 6445 S. Maple Ave., Apt. 2150, Tempe, AZ 85283, Tsirtalis@hotmail.com

Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills are widespread finch species with significant regional variation. Both species have call types that correspond to varying degrees with geographic distribution, morphology, and for the crossbills at least, diet and habitat. Accordingly, it has been suggested that these species might represent “species complexes,” and that the various call types might actually constitute a number of biological species. Evening Grosbeaks of at least two types, “Type 4” and the enigmatic “Mexican” call type, Type 5, occur in Arizona but their distributions are very poorly known. Likewise with Red Crossbills: Types 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 have all been documented in Arizona, but their distributions are very poorly known. Thus, birders and ornithologists in Arizona have a unique opportunity to contribute to the understanding of the distribution of these call types. This presentation will focus on the mechanics of call type identification, specifically: 1) equipment selection and use, including the recording gear most birders already have, like cameras and phones; 2) generating sonograms with free software; 3) interpreting call types from sonograms and matching them to published descriptions of calls; and 4) making findings available to the wider scientific community.

 

Using eBird Data: For Birders, Harter, Lauren B., 2841 McCulloch Blvd. N. #1, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403, lbharter@gmail.com,

One of the most important recent technologies in birding is the citizen science database eBird. This has become a popular way to contribute to citizen science year-round, to keep track of bird lists and birding outings, and to report rare bird sightings. Since its launch in 2002, eBird has quickly grown into one of the world’s largest natural history databases. Scientists all over the world use this database in a very large array of analyses, and AZFO volunteers rely on it to compile seasonal reports, but how can birders delve into this database themselves? What can be learned using the simple tools provided on the website, eBird.org? This presentation will be an overview of several of these tools, focusing on the learning-centered tools, demonstrating what can be learned from eBird about migration timing, abundance, distribution, individual sightings, and more.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Nesting in the Coronado National Forest, MacFarland, J., Conservation Biologist, Tucson Audubon Society, 300 E. University Blvd., #120, Tucson, AZ 85705, jmacfarland@tucsonaudubon.org

 

The western population of Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) was recently listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Part of the process of listing is determining where to designate critical habitat to effectively manage the species for success – but where does the Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest in Arizona? The long-held belief that it primarily uses low-elevation river corridors such as the Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers was challenged by a nest found in Montosa Canyon in the Santa Ritas in an oak tree. The Tucson Audubon Society and the Coronado National Forest teamed up to determine where else in the National Forest these birds are nesting, and they discovered some amazing things about Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona.

 

AZFO Volunteers in Action: Increasing Our Knowledge of Arizona Birds by Contributing to the Coordinated Bird Monitoring Program, Corman, T. E., Avian Monitoring Coordinator, Nongame Wildlife Branch, AZ Game and Fish Dept., 5000 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix, AZ 85086, tcorman@azgfd.gov

The number of bird species documented in Arizona is 555, with 300+ documented as breeding at least occasionally in the state. Many of these birds have a significant part of their U.S. distribution (seasonal or entire) in Arizona; therefore, the state has an important responsibility to conserve them. Monitoring is a critical element in any conservation effort as it contributes to the decision-making processes. Monitoring data provides a better understanding of bird distribution, population size, and trends to undertake, evaluate, or modify conservation actions and plans. Arizona Coordinated Bird Monitoring projects have benefited from AZFO support, including winter Gray Vireo and Mountain Plover surveys, plus breeding bird discoveries in the Galiuro Mountains. From expeditions to little-known regions of Arizona or to conduct surveys for priority species, learn how your participation with AZFO activities is contributing to an ongoing statewide program.

 

Scientific Collecting Permits for Birds and Other Wildlife in Arizona, Kondrat-Smith, C., 27324 N. 219 Ave., Wittmann, AZ 85361,azdesertbird@ gmail.com

 

When preparing for a project involving wildlife in Arizona, it is important to understand what is needed to get a project started. The field researcher must prepare carefully everything, including funding, land access, and if required, obtaining both federal and state permits. (Even individuals simply observing wildlife need to understand what actions are legally unacceptable, and whether a special license is required.) Permits are important for ensuring wildlife protection, preventing unnecessary duplication in collecting birds and other animals and plants, and protecting public safety. Understanding the process for obtaining permits is vital to a successful project. This paper will explain what permits are legally required for scientific collecting in Arizona and the reasons for these requirements. It will also describe the materials needed and the procedures to follow in applying for state and federal permits.

 

A Decade's Change in an Urban Riparian Bird Community, Banville, M. J.*, Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research,Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University,PO Box 875402, Tempe, AZ 85287, email: melanie.banville@asu.edu; Bateman, H. L.,Arizona State University – Polytechnic campus, 6073 S. Backus Mall – MC 2580,Mesa, AZ 85212; Earl, S. R., Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research,Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, PO Box 875402,Tempe, AZ 85287; Warren, P. S., Natural Resources Conservation, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Holdsworth Hall, Amherst, MA 01003.

*Presenter

 

Riparian zones provide critical resources for wildlife and are hotspots for biodiversity. Urbanization can affect biotic communities in riparian zones by altering land cover of the surrounding landscape. However, shifts in communities may occur slowly, and there are few long-term studies in urban areas. The Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program has been monitoring bird populations within the Phoenix metropolitan area and surrounding Sonoran Desert since 2001. Monitoring sites include 12 riparian sites that span four habitat types featuring natural or engineered settings with perennial or ephemeral flows. Here, we used long-term data to address three questions: (1) How does bird species composition vary among seasons and riparian habitat types? (2) Which environmental variables explain variation in habitat characteristics among riparian types? (3) How have riparian bird community composition, abundance, and species richness and diversity changed through time? Our analyses indicate that the migrant population varies among seasons. Engineered habitat types support more urban-adapted bird species; whereas, natural habitat types support more specialists. Environmental variables at the site level and landscape level explained differences in habitat characteristics across riparian types. Over time, bird communities decreased in abundance, species richness, and diversity. As contrasted with engineered habitat types, bird communities in natural settings experienced greater decreases and composition shifts. Overall, the riparian bird community of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is shifting toward an assemblage dominated by fewer, more abundant species, with more resident urban-adapted species that are characteristic of riparian areas with less water and more impervious surfaces.

 

2016

The Evolution of Hummingbird Coloration and Courtship, Simpson, R. K.*, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 874601, Tempe, AZ 85287-4601, rksimps1@asu.edu; McGraw, K. J., School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 874501, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501

*Presenter

 

Birds display an incredible diversity of exaggerated traits used for communication. The sensory drive hypothesis states that selection will favor signaling traits that can be effectively transmitted through the environment, and can interact with each other to improve transmission efficacy. We are studying how the evolutionary interactions between colorful ornaments and display behaviors led to the diversity in these traits across bee hummingbirds. We have filmed male courtship displays and plucked feathers from several species for color measurements. We then used these data to recreate each species’ courtship displays, and we photographed each species’ plucked feathers as we moved them through the recreated display to measure perceived male coloration. We then compared each species’ plumage patch, display behavior, and perceived coloration. Our results indicate a strong negative relationship between patch size and display width. Additionally, we found that display shape is related to changes in male coloration as he displays across species. Our results demonstrate the importance of signal interactions and behavioral displays when evaluating color/trait diversity and coevolution.

 

Gray Hawk Expansion in the San Pedro River Valley: Habitat, Diet, and Density Dependence, La Porte, A., School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, 138 E. 14th St., Tucson, AZ 85701-2428, ariana.laporte@gmail.com

 

Models of ideal despotic distribution predict that populations of territorial animals will exhibit density dependent growth because newly arriving individuals will be relegated to inferior habitat where productivity is lower. Interference can also be a mechanism for density dependence if individuals devote more energy to territorial defense—and less to reproduction— as an area becomes more crowded. I examined these hypotheses in an expanding population of Gray Hawks (Buteo plagiatus) in southeast Arizona. As Gray Hawk numbers increased, pairs began to settle at higher elevations and in places with different foraging habitat. In the most recently occupied environments, pairs likely foraged in grasslands or oak woodland as opposed to mesquite bosques. I assessed vegetation and productivity in new and historical territories to determine if fecundity is declining with population growth and whether habitat heterogeneity might contribute to this pattern. I also analyzed nestling diet to assess how foraging habitat might affect the quantity and composition of prey that Gray Hawks feed their chicks. Preliminary results suggest that productivity is not lower in more recently occupied environments, though incubating females may be more vulnerable to predation in these areas. Mammals appear to comprise a greater portion of Gray Hawk diet in areas with grassland foraging habitat, while lizard prey appear to dominate in areas surrounded by mesquite.

 

A Look at the Seabirds of Arizona, Vander Pluym, D., 2841 McCulloch Blvd. N, Apt. 1, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403-6049, dvanpluym@gmail.com

 

Despite being a landlocked state, Arizona’s close proximity to the Gulf of California has given birders the chance to record multiple species of seabirds. Though there is no single definition of what a seabird is, I focus on the more pelagic species, including two species of shorebirds (Scolopaciade), three jaegers (Stercorariidae), three gulls/terns (Laridae), two tropicbirds (Phaethontidae), one albatross (Diomedeidae), three shearwaters/petrels (Procellariidae), three storm-petrels (Hydrobatidae), one frigatebird (Fregatidae) and two boobies (Sulidae). Hurricane Newton brought several new species which are currently pending. Looking forward, several species of seabirds have occurred elsewhere in the inland Southwest and could potentially occur in Arizona as well. Although most birders associate these occurrences with tropical storms in the late summer and early fall, including recently Hurricane Newton, the causes and timing of these events are often more complex than perceived. An understanding of these factors, as well as of identification, can help prepare birders for an encounter with these species.

 

Hurricane Newton Meets Tucson Wildlife Center, Latas, P. J.*, Bates, M. L., Whitehead, L. R., Richardson C., Tucson Wildlife Center, Inc., 13275 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85748-7125, pjlatasdvm@gmail.com

 

Hurricane Newton swept northward over the Gulf of California during the first week of September, 2016. The well-organized remnants of the storm crossed southern Arizona and Tucson on the 6th-7th of September, and deposited diverse pelagic and near-pelagic seabird species. What is a boon to excited birders and biologists is a major tragedy to these birds. Several individuals were presented to Tucson Wildlife Center for urgent veterinary care. As a modern and cutting-edge facility, Tucson Wildlife Center was ready for many situations but an influx of pelagic seabirds was never on the training agenda. This presentation will discuss the species involved; the veterinary care and planning; interpretation of a rare natural weather event on wildlife rescue, care and reintroduction; and the lessons learned.

 

Partners in Flight Landbird Plan Revision: What It Means for Arizona, Beardmore, C. J., 14239 N. 10th St., Phoenix, AZ 85022-4311, Carol_beardmore@fws.gov

 

Partners in Flight has revised its 2004 North American Landbird Conservation Plan, and the 2016 version is now available. New analyses of Breeding Bird Survey data, eBird data, and other data sources provide a new view of the vulnerability of landbirds. The new “half-life” analysis presents information on the length of time until current species’ populations will decline by half. For example, Bendire’s Thrashers will decline by 50% in only 18 years at the current rate of decline. The Partners in Flight “Watch List” and a new grouping of vulnerable birds titled “Common Birds in Steep Decline” are highlighted. Both lists point to urgent conservation needs in Arizona’s desertscrub and grassland habitats. Information is presented on a continental level as well as on a Bird Habitat Joint Venture level.

 

A Recovery Effort: California Condor Distribution, Breeding, and Challenges in the Southwest Population, Hauck, T., PO Box 6123, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036-6123, Hauck.tim@peregrinefund.org

 

Few species have been monitored and studied as closely as the California Condor. Since The Peregrine Fund began releasing condors into the wilds of northern Arizona in 1996, its range, breeding activity and population size have all significantly increased. In the early years, bird movements were limited to the Vermilion Cliffs, their natal area and location of the condor release site. As the population has grown and matured, the range has expanded to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Kaibab Plateau and into southern Utah. Using conventional very high frequency (VHF) transmitters and the Global Positioning System (GPS), biologists are now able to clearly see patterns in seasonal movement that directly correlate to breeding behavior and food availability. While the highest number of potential breeding pairs and nesting attempts in the program’s history were recorded in 2016, the population still faces many challenges to becoming self-sustaining. The leading cause of death and biggest limiting factor to population growth continues to be lead poisoning. Lead fragments found in gut piles and carcasses in the field pose a serious threat to the California Condor as well as other scavenging raptors. The Peregrine Fund is working with state wildlife agencies to address this issue in an effort to forge social and cultural change within the hunting community.

 

A Summary of Bird Monitoring of Restoration Sites on the Lower Colorado RiverDodge, C., Wildlife Biologist, Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program,US Bureau of Reclamation, PO Box 61470, Boulder City, NV 89006-1470, cdodge@usbr.gov

 

Since 2005, the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR-MSCP) has been developing restoration sites along the Lower Colorado River, with cottonwood-willow, mesquite, marsh and backwater habitats represented. These sites have provided new areas of native habitat for breeding and migrating birds. The LCR-MSCP has monitored birds at these restoration sites and at existing habitat along the entire river. Bird monitoring includes surveys for southwestern Willow Flycatchers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, marsh birds like the Ridgway’s Rail, and other riparian breeding birds such as Summer Tanagers and Arizona Bell’s Vireos. Productivity and survivorship are being tracked at bird banding stations through the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program. These surveys have gathered a large dataset on bird use at both restoration sites and the entire LCR as a whole. As the acreage of restoration sites increases on the river, they will play an increasing role in providing habitat for the bird community on the LCR and are designed to offset losses of habitat from diverting and delivering water to communities and agriculture.

 

Spatial Ecology of the Lower Colorado River Valley Population of Greater Sandhill CranesConring, C. C., Grisham, B. A.*, Conway, W. C., Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University, Box 42125, Lubbock, TX 79409-2125, blake.grisham@ttu.edu; Collins, D. P., Region 2, US Fish and Wildlife Service, PO Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103-1306

*Presenter

 

The Lower Colorado River Valley Population (LCRVP) of greater Sandhill Cranes (Antigone candensis tabida) is among the smallest and least studied population of Sandhill Cranes in North America. We equipped 18 greater Sandhill Cranes on two study sites in southwest Arizona and southeast California to assess the spatial ecology of the LCRVP. Our goal was to assess three objectives regarding LCRVP greater Sandhill Crane spatial ecology: overwinter space use and habitat selection at two scales (population, social group), and identification of migratory pathways and areas of migration importance (AMIs). Ten groups had > 85% overlap with their home range from the previous year. All home ranges partially overlapped, and six groups overlapped 100% with at least one home range from another group. The home ranges reported were larger than home range estimates in previous Sandhill Crane studies, indicating resources on wintering grounds are not arranged in space that minimized home ranges. Our results indicated that roosting locations were the principal driver of resource selection at both spatial scales and are likely a limiting factor for the overwintering LCRVP. Fall and spring migration corridors covered similar areas, but the fall corridor was a straighter and more direct path between breeding and wintering areas while the spring corridor was 50 km wider. We identified 16 AMIs over the four migration events; the Mojave National Preserve, Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area were the most used AMIs.

 

Bringing Back the Colorado River Delta for People and Birds, Hinojosa Huerta, O., Pronatura Noroeste, Calle Décima No. 60, Zona Centro, Ensenada, Baja California, México, osvelhh@gmail.com

 

The Colorado River is one of the world’s hardest‐working and most loved rivers, and it has been the basis for growth in western United States and northwestern Mexico. The harnessing of the river has caused severe environmental impacts all over the basin, but this has been more severe in the delta of the Colorado in Mexico. However, significant wetlands have remained, maintained by agricultural run-off, seepage, and inadvertent releases since the 1970’s, creating habitat for over 250,000 wintering waterbirds and maintaining the largest population of the endangered Ridgeway's Rail. These remnant wetlands have shown amazing resilience and represent one of the best opportunities for ecological restoration in the region. Over the past decade, policymakers, agencies, academic institutions, communities, and nongovernmental organizations from the United States and Mexico have begun working cooperatively to create historic change for the delta.

 

In 2012, a milestone was reached when the U.S. and Mexican governments agreed to a set of restoration provisions for the Delta in a historic, binational water-sharing agreement known as Minute 319. This new and innovative policy framework allows the United States and Mexico to share water surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought, provides incentives for leaving water in storage, and conserves water through joint investments in projects from water users in both countries. It also lays the foundation for ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Colorado River Delta, including the allocation of 195 thousand acre-feet of water for the environment, provided jointly by the United States, Mexico, and a binational coalition of environmental organizations, as well as funding for on-the-ground riparian restoration, which has regenerated just over 1,000 acres of cottonwood, willow, and mesquite forests in the delta.

 

In addition, a binational scientific monitoring effort is being implemented, to evaluate the hydrological and ecological response of the ecosystem to the environmental flow releases and the restoration efforts. The ecological response has been strong and positive. The greenness of the floodplain has increased, as well as the cover of native riparian trees at the restoration sites. The bird community has responded accordingly, with a significant increase in diversity and abundance, especially in key riparian species, such as Vermillion Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Abert’s Towhee. Other wildlife is making a comeback, including beavers and bobcats.

 

At the same time, the response from the local communities in the delta has been astounding. During the environmental flow releases, thousands of people collected by the river to celebrate the revival of the Colorado, and for the younger generations, this was the first time they ever saw the river flowing. This has created a strong momentum in the region for the continuation of this initiative. The restoration efforts in the Colorado River Delta represent a sign of hope for the people, birds, and other wildlife that depend on a healthy river. It is an unprecedented and unique undertaking in the global context, and we hope to use the momentum of this historic work to bring more water to the delta in the future, as well as create a model for future transnational river restoration efforts throughout the world.

 

 

 

Posters

 

2011

Bird Monitoring Expeditions to Mexico, 2008 and 2010, Carol J. Beardmore, Sonoran Joint Venture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Phoenix, AZ carol_beardmore@fws.gov

The Sonoran Joint Venture in collaboration with Western Field Ornithologists conducted Bird Monitoring Expeditions to the Reserva Biosfera Sierra La Laguna in Baja California Sur in 2008 and to the Area Protegida Flora y Fauna Sierra Alamos y Rio Cuchujaqui near Alamos, Sonora in 2010. These are five days in the field using intensive bird monitoring protocols. Similar to the Arizona Coordinated Bird Monitoring Program, we used area search with double sampling and the national nightjar protocol along with other techniques. Professional biologists and citizen scientists from both the U.S. and Mexico volunteer a week of their time to add to the bird monitoring data for Mexico.

Corticosterone's relationship with parental investment in a Sonoran Desert passerine, the Rufous-winged Sparrow Stephanie Bittner (ssbittne@asu.edu) and Pierre Deviche (deviche@asu.edu), School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

 

The hormonal control of parental investment in birds, particularly the factors that control variation in parental care, are poorly known. This control is hypothesized to involve several hormones including corticosterone (CORT). Corticosterone is secreted into the blood in response to stress, inhibits the activity of the reproductive system, and promotes behaviors that increase survival, such as escape and foraging that draw parents away from maintenance of the clutch. We used Rufous-winged Sparrows (RWSP) to investigate whether plasma initial (i.e., in nonstressed birds) CORT or stress-induced (SI) CORT predicts parental investment. We hypothesized that (1) RWSP modulate the stress response to control parental decisions and (2) plasma initial and/or SI CORT affect(s) parental investment, with higher CORT being associated with less investment. We predicted that parents with higher plasma initial CORT would invest less in their offspring – as estimated by fewer eggs per nest and less care towards the eggs  - than parents with low plasma initial CORT. We also predicted that the SI increase in plasma CORT would be smaller in males with a higher investment in offspring than in males with few offspring and lower investment. We located RWSP nests at the Santa Rita Experimental Range, recorded the number of eggs contained in each nest to estimate parental investment, and measured hatching success. Parental investment is assumed to affect reproductive success, and higher investment in incubation would, therefore, result in more successfully hatched chicks. Males, which like females provide parental care, were caught using Japanese mist nets and bled within minutes of capture to determine plasma initial CORT. Birds were then exposed to a standard non invasive stress (holding in a breathable cloth bag for 30 minutes) to induce a stress response, and bled again to determine plasma SI CORT. The procedure was repeated on the same birds after eggs hatched. Our hypotheses were not supported. Plasma initial CORT was not correlated with the investment of the parents as estimated by clutch size or number of chicks hatched. The SI increase in plasma CORT did differ between parents with different sizes of clutch and thus investment, but in the opposite direction than predicted: the more eggs laid, the higher the SI increase in plasma CORT. The SI increase in plasma CORT increased as a function of the number of chicks but the significance of this observation is unclear as relatively few nests were found to contain chicks.

 

The Influence of Urbanization on the Reproductive Phenology and Morphometrics of the Abert’s Towhee, Scott Davies and Pierre Deviche , School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, sdavies1@asu.edu

 

To successfully breed, birds must time their seasonal reproductive activity to coincide with peak food abundance. A mistiming between reproduction and peak food availability can have severe fitness costs. Consequently, the timing of reproduction (reproductive phenology) is considered one of the major life history traits reflecting the adaptation of birds to local environmental characteristics. The strongest, most consistent pattern emerging from studies of the effects of urbanization on birds is that urbanization is associated with advancement of reproductive phenology. We tested the hypothesis that urbanization of Phoenix, AZ advances the onset of seasonal breeding in urban Abert’s Towhees, Melozone aberti. We measured testis volume and cloacal protuberance width of adult male towhees caught in urban localities of the Phoenix metropolitan area and outlying desert localities. We also measured body mass, tarsus length, and fat stores to investigate whether urbanization is associated with morphological differences in towhee populations. The data suggest that urbanization of Phoenix is not associated with differences in body mass, tarsus length, or fat stores. However, testis volume and cloacal protuberance suggest that urbanization of Phoenix is associated with an advancement of reproductive phenology of urban towhees. The mechanism responsible for this difference is unknown and requires further study. We are currently testing the hypothesis that this difference in reproductive phenology is a result of greater food abundance in urban areas and will present data from a captive study supporting this hypothesis. Support: Central Arizona Phoenix – Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) grant to S.D.

 

Rapid Effects of Capture and Handling on Circulating Hormone Concentrations in the Male Rufous-winged Sparrow, Pierre Deviche, Sisi Gao, and Scott Davies

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University,Tempe, AZ 85287-4501, pierre.deviche@asu.edu

 

Many studies on wild birds involve the capture of these birds for the purpose of marking and of measuring morphological and physiological parameters. These studies rarely examine the physiological effects of capture and subsequent restraint or the duration of these effects. We measured circulating concentrations of the glucocorticoid corticosterone (CORT, which in birds is rapidly released in response to stress) and of testosterone (T, the testicular hormone that controls male reproductive behaviors and morphology) of adult male Rufous-winged Sparrows, Peucaea carpalis, sampled during their summer reproductive season at the Santa Rita Experimental Range, Pima Co., AZ. Based on previous work, we predicted plasma CORT and T to increase and decrease, respectively, in response to capture and handling. Sparrows were caught using playback songs and Japanese mist nets, bled within two minutes to measure initial (baseline) hormone levels, held in individual breathable cloth bags, bled again 5, 10, 20, or 30 min later to measure stress-related hormone levels, and then marked and released. As predicted, capture and handling markedly increased plasma CORT. The experimental procedure was also associated with a 30-50 % decrease in plasma T that was detected as early as 10 min after capture and persisted until birds were released up to 30 min later. The relative magnitude of the decrease was positively, although not linearly, related to baseline plasma T. Sparrows were then recaptured 1-7 hours after release to determine the duration of the stress-associated decrease in plasma T. When re-captured using the same method as for the initial capture, birds still had depleted plasma T and, from this standpoint, did not show signs of recovery relative to when they were released after the first capture. Thus, capture and handling markedly affected plasma hormones. In the case of plasma T, the effect was persistent and individually but predictably variable. The implications of these findings require further study because it is unknown whether the observed stress-related hormonal changes are associated with behavioral and/or physiological effects that might compromise short-term survival and/or reproductive success. Support: National Science Foundation Award 1026620 to P.D.

 

Arizona Golden Eagle Management, Jacobson, Kenneth, AZ Game and Fish Dept., 5000 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix, AZ 85086, kjacobson@azgfd.gov

 

The Golden Eagle population in the western United States has been recently estimated at around 30,000 individuals, however, some evidence suggest numbers are declining. With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s newly established Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act permitting process coupled with concerns for possible population declines, the states need current information on golden eagle breeding distribution, occupancy, and productivity. In Arizona, very little current information exists. In order to start filling this data gap, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, initiated a two-year helicopter flight survey to document potential Golden Eagle nesting sites throughout the state. The 2011 surveys concentrated on surveying the western third of Arizona’s cliff nesting habitat. These cliff nesting surveys will continue during spring 2012 to cover high priority areas in central and eastern Arizona. Pending future funding, occupancy and reproductive assessments will be conducted beginning in the spring of 2013. Any information from birders regarding Golden Eagle nest locations and sightings can help refine the state population estimates. Golden eagle sighting information during the breeding season (March to July) and potentially active nests can be reported at goldeneagle@azgfd.gov.

 

The Probable Breeding of Cassin's Sparrow in Pinal County, Jenness, D.,4375 E. Rollins Rd., Tucson, AZ 85739, d_jenness@hotmail.com

 

Before the summer of 2006 there was no documented evidence of Cassin's Sparrow breeding in Pinal Co. Following an especially wet monsoon season that summer, Cassin's Sparrow was discovered singing and skylarking in an extensive semidesert grassland area from northern Pima Co. to east of Oracle in Pinal Co. The skylarking behavior of males suggested the presence of females and probable nesting. In the following five years surveys were conducted to determine whether the 2006 expansion was simply the result of unusually high rainfall one summer or was the discovery of a population that may have been previously undetected. In those five years Cassin's Sparrow was detected in some of the areas where it had been observed in 2006, but in no years was it found in as wide an area. The number of skylarking males varied each year, but generally was most concentrated along Willow Springs Road northeast of Oracle Junction, with the greatest concentration in this area in 2008. Of the five years the greatest dispersion was in the summer of 2011. It is difficult to determine if some of the Cassin's Sparrows in this area are resident year-round as they are usually silent and elusive when not breeding. However, in the spring of 2009 a male Cassin's Sparrow was heard singing along Willow Springs Road as early as March. No nests have yet been discovered, but extensive breeding behavior in this appropriate habitat suggests that nesting is taking place and may well have been the case for many years

 

2012

Advances in Our Knowledge of the Winter Distribution of Gray Vireo in Arizona

Arnett, J., Wildlife Biologist, 56th Range Management Office, 7101 Jerstad Lane, Bldg 500, Luke Air Force Base, AZ 85309, john.arnett.1@us.af.mil

Recent Arizona Field Ornithologists (AZFO) Field Expeditions focused on elucidating the nonbreeding season (winter) distribution and habitat affinities of Gray Vireo (Vireo vicinior) in Arizona. Two important sources provided the basis for these expeditions: the observations of wintering vireos reported by Gale Monson and his contemporaries, as reported in Phillips et al. (1964) and Monson and Phillips (1981); and publications by John Bates about the importance of Elephant Tree (Bursera microphylla) as a winter food source for the vireo. This poster illustrates how our knowledge of the Gray Vireo winter distribution in Arizona has changed in recent years, due in large part to important contributions by AZFO and its members.

 

The Recent Movement of Crested Caracaras into Southern Pinal County

Jenness, D., 4375 E. Rollins Rd., Tucson, AZ 85739, d_jenness@hotmail.com, 520-909-1529

 

The only confirmed resident community of Crested Caracaras (Caracara cheriway) in Arizona is in south-central Pima County on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Wandering individual birds have been regularly reported throughout the lower two-thirds of the state, but there are only two breeding records away from the Tohono O’odham lands. Beginning in 1996 caracaras began to be reported in the Santa Cruz Flats area of Pinal County. At first there were winter reports of one to four individuals, but beginning in 2006 larger concentrations, as large as 40-50, began to be reported. These are bigger concentrations than any reported elsewhere in the state away from the Tohono O'odham Reservation. They have now been reported there in every month of the year. Once in May one was observed carrying food and in April a pair was engaged in mating behavior. This study pulls together data from dozens of reported sightings to show the dynamic of this development, including the overall growth in numbers and the monthly fluctuations. Although no nests have been discovered and the data doesn't confirm nesting, the existence of such a large population with adult birds remaining year-round suggests this is likely. Moreover, there is favorable nesting habitat in the area. Hopefully this study will help inspire and aid further fieldwork to investigate why caracaras have moved into this area and the prospects of caracaras nesting in this area.

 

Developing Techniques to Document Migration of Tree Swallows along the Lower Colorado River, Piest, L.A., Arizona Game and Fish Department, 9140 E. 28th Street, Yuma, AZ 85365

lpiest@azgfd.gov

 

The lower Colorado River is a major corridor for spring and fall migrant Tree Swallows. These birds create impressive spectacles as they congregate in swarms in the evening and descend to their roosts in marsh vegetation, and again in the morning when they depart. It is obvious that the LCR is of critical importance to western populations of Tree Swallows, and biologists have estimated migrations of several million birds, but we know little about actual numbers of roosts or individuals, their distribution along the river, or the seasonality of the migration. Difficulty of access and dim lighting have made estimates of individuals in roosting swarms difficult. Several attempts I have made to photograph swarms against the evening sky and count individuals have resulted in estimates of about 40,000 in individual swarms. This technique has involved considerable extrapolation and is generally far from rigorous. Roost flights are apparent on Doppler radar and this technology should help us fill in many of the gaps in our knowledge of Tree Swallow migration.

 

2013

Wintering Grasshopper Sparrows in the Verde Valley, *Grahame, J., jdgrahame AT gmail.com; *Linda, T., roughlegged AT gmail.com; Crouse, J., Joseph.Crouse AT nau.edu; and Drost, C., Charles_drost AT usgs.gov, Flagstaff, AZ

 

The winter distribution of the Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) in the United States is rather poorly known. Monson and Phillips (1981) describe the species as “fairly common” in southeastern Arizona in the winter, but they note that the species is “lacking in central Arizona; uncommon and irregular ... farther west, even to the Colorado River, where there are about six records, including two specimens...” Museum records and historical surveys from the Verde Valley of north-central Arizona do not show any reports of Grasshopper Sparrows. However, three were captured and banded in Verde Valley grassland habitat on 4 April 2000, and one individual was recorded in similar habitat on the Verde Valley Christmas Bird Count of 26 December 2010. We made a concerted effort to search this habitat for the species during the winter and early spring of 2013. Seventy-eight sightings of Grasshopper Sparrows were made over the course of 14 visits between 7 January and 4 May. The birds were regularly found in lightly to moderately grazed grasslands with low shrub density. We believe the birds to be the widely-distributed western subspecies, A. s. perpallidus. The authors hope that their work will result in an increase in winter surveying for Grasshopper Sparrows in north-central Arizona grasslands.

*Presenting authors

The Expansion of Tropical Kingbirds in Arizona, Jenness, D., 4375 E. Rollins Rd., Tucson, AZ 85739, d_jenness AT hotmail.com, 520-909-1529

 

"Based on their history in the state, the nesting distribution of Tropical Kingbirds is expected to continue expanding in Arizona." This forecast by Troy Corman in the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas (2005) has proved to be accurate. For the past five decades Tropical Kingbirds have been gradually moving northward, primarily along the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers. At the time of the Atlas surveys in the 1990s and early 2000s they had reached the confluence of the San Pedro and Gila rivers at Winkelman and had moved northward along the Santa Cruz River valley to Marana and a pecan grove south of the Pinal Air Park. Outlier pairs were also found nesting near Yuma, at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenberg. The latter was the most northern site up to that time. Since then new nesting sites, farther north and west, have been discovered along the lower Colorado River valley in Mohave and La Paz counties. Moreover, they have continued expanding along the Santa Cruz River valley, most notably at the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson and farther north into the primarily agricultural Santa Cruz Flats area of Pinal County. The latter area is particularly intriguing as an estimated 15 to 20 pairs of Tropical Kingbirds have been discovered nesting in rows of healthy pecans along farm roads. It's not clear when nesting began in this area. This study pulls together nesting data that shows the continued expansion of Tropical Kingbirds since the Atlas surveys were completed with special attention to the Santa Cruz Flats area.

 

Sonoran Desert Breeding Bird Surveys: A Coordinated Approach, *Juarez, E., and Corman, T. E., Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086. Ejuarez AT azgfd.gov, 623-236-7516; Arnett, J. 56th Range Management Office, 7101 Jerstad Lane, Building 500, Luke Air Force Base, AZ 85309-1647;Beardmore, C. Sonoran Joint Venture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 W. Royal Palm Rd. Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021

 

Over 60 species of birds breed in the Sonoran Desert and many populations are naturally small and typically at low density. As a result, these species may be particularly vulnerable to progressively growing threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation. These threats have made a robust monitoring program necessary to assess the status and trends of these desert-dwelling species, inform conservation strategies for priority species, and help keep common species common. Through the Arizona Bird Conservation Initiative (ABCI, a partnership coordinated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department) various partners have joined to promote the development of a unified breeding bird monitoring strategy. The study area includes native Sonoran Desert habitats (Upper and Lower Sonoran), including dry washes in southern and western Arizona. This three-year project began in 2012 and will run through the 2014 breeding season, with additional three-year cycles to be repeated in the future to quantify long-term trends. We have established monitoring plots (16 or 24 hectares) across the desert and are using a double sampling methodology (with an area search approach) for surveying plots. To date, we have recorded over 130 species. An important component of this project is the high level of coordination across the landscape. This coordination facilitates pooling of resources to work at a much larger scale than would be possible otherwise. It also helps resource managers in the region to better understand their level of stewardship for Sonoran Desert birds.

*Presenting author

 

Preliminary Findings: The Diet of Arizona’s Golden Eagle, *Losee, M.J., Antioch University New England, 2850 Blue Horizon, Sedona, AZ 86336, Michele.losee AT gmail.com, 571-271-1193; Jacobson, T., Licence, K. and McCarty, K., Arizona Department of Game and Fish, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086

 

In Arizona, the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) has been largely unstudied. In 2011, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) began a two-year nest survey for cliff nesting Golden Eagles throughout the state. Golden Eagle occupancy and diet assessments began in 2013. During the 2013-nesting season, we collected prey remains from six active Golden Eagle nests in the northern region of the state. The number of prey items ranged from three to 29 with the number of different species ranging from two to six. The Black-tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus californicus) was the only prey species found in all six nests and the highest percentage (33-81%) of total species found in each nest as well as contributing to the highest biomass (2.7-5.9kg) for each nest. The two heaviest, single prey species were a Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana) fawn (3kg) and a juvenile Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) (3.2kg). The more unique prey species were snake, an adult Common Raven (Corvus corax), domestic feline, and a juvenile Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus). The nest with most diversity of prey species (6) was the only nest with two nestlings. These preliminary findings revealed important information pertaining to the dietary habits of Golden Eagles nesting in Northern Arizona. This information as well as data collected from next year’s nesting season will help describe the dietary and foraging requirements for Golden Eagle pairs nesting in Arizona. These requirements coupled with occupancy data will assist AZGFD to generate better conservation action and policy recommendations.

*Presenting author

 

2015

 

Ten Years of the Santa Cruz Flats Raptor Count, Jenness, D. 4375 E. Rollins Rd., Tucson, AZ 85739, d_jenness@hotmail.com

Since 2006, volunteers have conducted an annual one-day survey of raptors wintering at the Santa Cruz Flats in Pinal County. The count is conducted on the third Saturday of January. Santa Cruz Flats, dominated by diverse agriculture, is one of the principal areas in southern Arizona that draws these winter visitors. Located along the basin of the Santa Cruz River, which flows northwest across the county towards the Gila River, the area encompasses approximately 350 square miles and has an average elevation of 1,700 feet. The results were 236 to 448 raptors reported, with a 10-year mean of 341. Species reported range from 13 to 16. The most numerous species are Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Northern Harrier. Overall, the numbers of these species appear to be declining. For the first four years of the count, all three surpassed their 10-year averages; in the last six years, Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier have surpassed their averages only once and American Kestrel twice. White-tailed Kite and Barn Owl reported in the first years of the count haven't been detected in recent years. However, there has been an increase in the number of wintering Crested Caracaras. The reason for the apparent decline in the five named species and the increase in wintering caracaras merits further study.

 

2016

 

Prescribed Fire, Resource Objective Fire, and Wildfire Effects on American Three-toed Woodpecker, Crouse, J.*, Huffman, D., Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 15017, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5017, Joseph.Crouse@nau.edu

 

Prescribed burning and naturally ignited “resource objective” fires are used by land managers to manage fuels, as tools for ecosystem restoration, and to help reduce the size and severity of wildfires in ponderosa pine and ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forests. These ecosystems are the preferred habitat for the American Three-toed Woodpecker in Arizona. A recent study in these forest types showed that the woodpeckers prefer areas with moderate burn severity that contain a mix of unburned to severely burned trees. Large snags (≥ 30 cm diameter) for nesting, and trees averaging 63 cm for foraging, are critical habitat components. We combined Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) and field plot data to analyze woodpecker habitat created by 105 prescribed fires, resource objective fires, and wildfires covering nearly 610,000 hectares. Moderate severity fire comprises 23% of wildfire landscapes, 12% of resource objective fire landscapes, and only 1% of prescribed fire landscapes. Although wildfires create the greatest amount of moderate burn severity areas, resource objective fires—because they occur during conditions that generally do not allow them to become extremely large or to become threats to human life and structures—are likely the best compromise to meet both American Three-toed Woodpecker habitat requirements and forest restoration targets.

*presenting author

 

 

Population and Density Estimates of Breeding Birds in the Sonoran Desert and Riparian Habitats of Arizona, Juarez, E.*, Corman, T. E., Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000, Ejuarez@azgfd.gov; Arnett, J., 56th Range Management Office, Luke Air Force Base, 7101 Jerstad Ln., Bldg. 500, Luke Air Force Base, AZ 85309-1647; Beardmore, C., Sonoran Joint Venture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 9828 N. 31st Ave., #C3, Phoenix, AZ 85051-2517

 

In Arizona, continental-scale bird monitoring programs such as BBS do not adequately sample major bird groups, including species that: 1) breed in riparian habitats, and 2) Sonoran Desert species that breed earlier or later than most BBS surveys are conducted. Coincidentally, multiple species from these two habitats are represented on Arizona’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) list, which means that many of Arizona’s priority species are poorly monitored. To address this gap, the Arizona Bird Conservation Initiative (ABCI) implemented two studies to estimate population size and density of breeding birds in riparian habitats and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona (Fig. 1). A total of 47 species (32% of those on the SGCN list) nest in riparian habitats, while 17 (12%) regularly nest in the Sonoran Desert. We used multiple criteria to define the study area for each habitat and used stratified random sampling to select survey plots. To estimate detection rates we used double sampling, by which all plots are surveyed rapidly (i.e. infrequently ̶ referred to as “rapid surveys”) and a random subset is surveyed intensively (i.e., more often ̶ referred to as “intensive surveys”). For the riparian habitats, we recorded 34,748 birds of 197 breeding species, and estimated population size and density for over 100 species, 23 of which were SGCN. Total population size in the study area was estimated at about 1.5 million birds, with a density of about 1,950 birds / km2. For the Sonoran Desert we recorded 15,909 birds of 74 breeding species, and estimated population size and density for 10 of the 17 SGCN species. We estimated the total population size in the study area at about 30 million birds with an overall density of 437 birds/ km2. Repeating these surveys over time will provide long-term trend data that can inform conservation and adaptive management at relevant scales. *presenting author

 

Preliminary Findings: Golden Eagle Nesting Phenology, Losee, M. J.*, Antioch University New England, 40 Avon St., Keene, NH 03431-3516, mlosee@antioch.edu; Jacobson, T., Licence, K., McCarty, K., Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000

 

In Arizona, the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) has been largely unstudied. Beginning in 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) began surveying Golden Eagle occupancy throughout the state. Nesting phenology and productivity data were collected for seasons 2011 thru 2014. Preliminary analyses show courting ranges from February 3 to March 23--with the average being February 19, the mean-date for egg-laying is February 26, and the incubation period ranges from March 3 to April 7. The mean-date for hatching is April 1, and the nestling period ranges from April 29 to June 1. Fledging occurs mainly between June 11 and July 5. Occupancy for individual nests was 30% and pair productivity was 38% collectively for all four seasons. These are preliminary findings relating to a larger study of Golden Eagles nesting in Arizona. Establishing a foundation timeline for Golden Eagle nesting phenology is important for any future studies, especially those involving the impact of global environmental change. By building a model to relate climate parameters, we can better understand how the effects of future climate change might influence nesting throughout the state. These findings, coupled with occupancy and productivity data, will assist the AZGFD to generate better conservation action and policy recommendations.

*presenting author

 

Breeding Habitat Selection of the Western Distinct Population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo within Important Bird Areas, Supplee, T.*, Prager, S., Audubon Arizona, 3131 S Central Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040, tsupplee@audubon.org

 

Understanding breeding habitat preferences of the western distinct population of the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), a species listed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as Threatened, is key to its conservation. Natural history accounts of the bird note that, in its breeding range, it nests in cottonwood/willow riparian gallery forests and relies on adjacent mesquite bosque for foraging. In the summer of 2015, Audubon Arizona staff and permittees surveyed five Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBAs) to determine cuckoo presence/absence and to assess breeding status. Using the protocol published by the USFWS, surveyors detected cuckoos 154 times, in four of the five IBAs.  Of these sites, three supported birds that were likely breeding. One site contained habitat consistent with cuckoo natural history accounts – extensive cottonwood/willow riparian gallery forest with adjacent mesquite upland scrub and Madrean pinyon-juniper woodland.  The second site was less consistent with cuckoo habitat descriptions with most detections occurring in extensive mesquite bosque along dry, ephemeral portions of the San Pedro River. The third site was the least consistent with previous cuckoo breeding habitat descriptions. Detections at this site were made in ephemeral drainages dominated by encinal oak woodlands and adjacent semi-desert grasslands. This use of what was thought to be atypical cuckoo habitat was also observed by Tucson Audubon biologists during their 2015 surveys of several oak-dominated drainages within southeastern Arizona sky island IBAs. Studies looking to determine presence/absence of cuckoos and eventual designation of critical habitat should consider these and potentially other habitat types.

*presenting author

 

 

 

 


 



 

Tufted Flycatcher
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Photo by Jack Holloway

 


Lapland Longspur
Evergreen Turf Farm
Photo by Virginia Fairchild

 

Orchard Oriole

Queen Creek
Photo by Don Sejkora

 

 



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Updated Saturday, March 8, 2014

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