Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Texas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Texas Project

TPW 40: Assessing Distribution and Occupancy Patterns of Riparian Avifauna in the Trans Pecos Region of Texas

November 2017 - August 2020


Participating Agencies

  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Riparian areas in the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion are identified as a priority for conservation in the Trans Pecos region of Texas. Desert riparian systems are distinct narrow drainages that provide (or have the potential to provide) conditions for vegetation and wildlife species dependent on permanent or ephemeral surface and subsurface water. Southwest riparian zones create nesting and foraging habitat for an estimated 166 bird species also support an estimated 10.6 times more migratory birds compared to the surrounding upland desert. Among these are species of conservation concern, such as the federally threatened western yellow-billed cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis) and the state threatened common black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), gray hawk (Buteo plagiatus), and zone-tailed hawk (Buteo albonotatus). It is also an objective of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to work toward the recovery of threatened, endangered, and high-priority species associated with riparian systems. However, little quantitative data are available for riparian obligate birds in the region. In 2018 we initiated a study to 1) assess the distribution, site occupancy, and community structure of avifauna among different riparian systems of the Trans Pecos region, and 2) to estimate nesting abundance and productivity of three state threatened raptor species. We anticipate our results will provide Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with data to make informed decisions for identification of priority areas for conservation and restoration, and assessment of status of species of concern.