Consideration of geography and wetland geomorphic type in the development of Great Lakes coastal wetland bird indicators

Jo Ann Hanowski, Nick Danz, Robert Howe, Gerald J Niemi, Ron Regal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We examined how geographic distribution of birds and their affinities to three geomorphic wetland types would affect the scale at which we developed indicators based on breeding bird communities for Great Lakes coastal wetlands. We completed 385 breeding bird surveys on 222 wetlands in the US portion of the basin in 2002 and 2003. Analyses showed that wetlands within two ecoprovinces (Laurentian Mixed Forest and Eastern Broadleaf Forest) had different bird communities. Bird communities were also significantly different among five lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) and among three wetland types (lacustrine, riverine, barrier-protected). Indicator values illustrated bird species with high affinities for each group (ecoprovince, lake, wetland type). Species with restricted geographic ranges, such as Alder and Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax alnorum and E. traillii), had significant affinities for ecoprovince. Ten bird species had significant affinities for lacustrine wetlands. Analyses on avian guild metrics showed that Lake Ontario wetlands had fewer long-distant migrants and warblers than other lakes. Numbers of short-distant migrants and total individuals in wetlands were higher in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest ecoprovince. Number of flycatchers and wetland obligate birds were not different among provinces, lakes, or wetland type. One potential indicator for wetland condition in Great Lakes wetlands, proportion of obligate wetland birds, responded negatively to proportion of developed land within 1 km of the wetland. We conclude that, although a guild approach to indicator development ameliorates species-specific geographic differences in distribution, individual species responses to disturbance scale will need to be considered in future indicator development with this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-205
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Birds
  • Great Lakes
  • Indicators
  • Wetlands

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