Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce-Fir
  • Wetlands


  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited
    Appendices

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains

    Lowland Riparian

    Description and Ecology: Lowland riparian forests border streams as they flow out of the foothills onto the eastern plains, into the San Luis Valley, and into the valleys of the Western Slope. Narrowleaf and plains cottonwoods generally line these streams in eastern Colorado, interspersed with thickets of willows and other shrubs such as wild plums, hackberries, hawthorns, chokecherries, and box elder. The lowland riparian forests in the San Luis Valley and on the Western Slope generally consist of narrowleaf and Rio Grande cottonwoods with an understory of willows and other shrubs, including red-osier dogwood, buffaloberry, skunkbrush, and greasewood (Andrews and Righter 1992, Kingery 1998).

    Various sources report that riparian forests comprise less than 3% of the total landscape, but up to 80% of the resident bird species use them for some part of their life cycle. Birds use this habitat for nesting, cover, resting, migration stopover areas, and migration corridors. This system has the richest avian species component of any of Colorado's habitats. The most frequently detected species in lowland riparian forests in Physiographic Area 62 include American Kestrel, Great Horned Owl, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, House Wren, Black-billed Magpie, American Robin, Yellow Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole (Andrews and Righter 1992, Krueper 1995, Howe 1996, Kingery 1998).

    Importance and Conservation Status: Lowland riparian systems provide dispersal corridors for woodland birds across otherwise treeless terrain. Well-defined, unique, and highly productive, riparian zones areas are sensitive to disturbance (Melton et al. 1984).

    Riparian ecosystems are important for both humans and wildlife. During historic times, humans have used riparian zones intensively and have substantially altered much of this habitat to create highways, gravel mines, and residential, industrial, and recreational developments. Riparian zones are convenient locations for those activities. They are also productive areas for domestic livestock grazing. However, the impacts of domestic livestock are not as dominant as in high elevation riparian zones (Melton et al. 1984, Wozniak 1995).

    Unlike the high elevation riparian habitat in Colorado, much of the lowland riparian ecosystem is in private ownership. Consequently it is much more susceptible to loss and degradation by urban and industrial development, mining, road and trail development, and recreational development.

    Priority Species Accounts: Two species are identified as high priority in low-elevation riparian habitats in Physiographic Area 62: Lewis's Woodpecker and Lazuli Bunting.


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