Fantastic Birds and Where to Find Them. Dissertation. University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada

Date: 2023/01/01

Author(s): Phillips L.

Publication: University of Nevada, Reno Dissertation



I investigated avian-habitat relationships in three related study systems. In my first chapter I characterize the nonbreeding habitat of the western subspecies of Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax traillii subspp.), including the federally endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), with a range-wide species distribution model. The three western subspecies of Willow Flycatchers migrate between the riparian landscapes in the western and southwestern United States to the riparian areas in tropical dry forests along the Pacific coast of Central America. The predictive model of potential habitat suitability will be corroborated on the ground by conservation collaborators and used to locate new long-term monitoring sites, and acquire new protected areas. Unlike the migratory western Willow Flycatchers, The Nicaraguan Grackle is a residential (non-migratory) bird that occupies more open wetlands and riparian areas around the Nicaraguan great lakes and the Caño Negro wetland complex of Costa Rica. In my second chapter, I create urgently-needed baseline maps of habitat suitability with varied levels of freshwater recurrence for the Nicaraguan Grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis). This map of predicted habitat suitability will be used as evidence to garner elevated protection status for this understudied, declining species. Finally, in my third chapter, I use unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones) to explore methods to improve habitat variables used in nest-site selection modeling for Mojave Desert riparian songbirds, including the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus). I compared UAS and satellite image products of vegetation structure within first and second order resource selection functions for breeding and nesting habitat in Amargosa Canyon. The ultimate goal with this research was to determine key features of vegetation structure that influence nest-site selection to inform habitat restoration upstream on the Amargosa River.