Applying Satellite-based Habitat Models to Inform Riparian Habitat Restoration and Management Actions for Two Listed Riparian Species, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo 

  James Hatten1, Jennifer Holmes2, and Matthew Johnson3* 


1Western Fisheries Research Center, US Geological Survey, Cook, Washington, USA; 

2EcoPlateau Research, Bend, Oregon, USA; 

3EcoPlateau Research, Bend, Oregon, USA; 


Riparian obligate species depend on complex, dynamic riparian ecosystems and ensuring their conservation requires identification of habitat characteristics and other factors that affect the quality, persistence, and resiliency of riparian habitats, at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Identifying these is especially important for at-risk species, including the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and the threatened, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). To characterize flycatcher and cuckoo breeding habitats, we examined physical and biological patterns associated with their breeding habitats in two ecologically distinct areas along the Gila River: the Cliff-Gila Valley in New Mexico, comprised of native-dominated riparian habitat, and the Safford Valley in Arizona, with tamarisk-dominated riparian habitat. We assessed key habitat characteristics, dynamics, and persistence of these two habitat types and their relationship to the distribution and abundance of flycatchers and cuckoos across multiple time scales. We 1) georeferenced potential flycatcher and cuckoo breeding habitats with our two published satellite models that characterize riparian vegetation and patch dynamics; 2) examined the relationships between precipitation and temperature patterns, streamflow, and predicted flycatcher and cuckoo habitats with a geographic information system and statistical software; 3) assessed model accuracy and interpreted results by comparing satellite model outputs with flycatcher and cuckoo survey data at patch and landscape scales; and 4) created a set of habitat time series at patch (site) and Valley (landscape) scales to gain further insights into multitemporal associations between flycatchers, cuckoos, and habitat characteristics. We discuss how our identification of key flycatcher and cuckoo habitat characteristics, and their dynamics can be used to guide decisions regarding riparian habitat conservation and restoration actions concerning recovery and conservation of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and other riparian obligate species.