Occurrence and habitat use of passage neotropical migrants in the Sonoran Desert Academic Article uri icon


  • Little is known about stopover habitat use by neotropical migratory birds in the deserts of North America. We determined distribution, abundance, and habitat associations of neotropical migrants during spring migration in the Sonoran Desert of southwestern Arizona along large washes that supported xeroriparian scrub vegetation. We detected 91 bird species during surveys, 50 (52%) of which were passage neotropical migrants. Although xeroriparian scrub covered less than 55% of the area surveyed, 97% of all detections of passage migrants were from this vegetation type. By calculating habitat breadth for each species, we classified 87% of passage migrants as xeroriparian specialists. Richness of passage migrants was strongly associated with the presence of overstory (>2.5 m) mesquite and paloverde. The highest species richness of breeding neotropical migrants was associated with width of the xeroriparian corridor. Habitat characteristics we have shown to be important to neotropical migrants can be preserved and managed by protecting xeroriparian areas, particularly those supporting mature (>2.5 m) paloverde, mesquite, desert willow, and catclaw acacia trees. Additionally, xeroriparian scrub within the creosote-bursage vegetation type may be particularly important to passage neotropical migrants.

published proceedings

  • Western North American Naturalist

author list (cited authors)

  • Hardy, P. C., Griffin, D. J., Kuenzi, A. J., & Morrison, M. L.

complete list of authors

  • Hardy, PC||Griffin, DJ||Kuenzi, AJ||Morrison, ML

publication date

  • February 2004