Desert riparian ecosystems are among the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the United States, and efforts to conserve them have been increasing. In 2010–2011 and 2014–2016, we examined shifts in the distribution, habitat characteristics, diet, nest success, and productivity of the gray hawk (Buteo plagiatus), 25 years after a Riparian National Conservation Area was established along the San Pedro River in Arizona, USA, to determine how the removal of grazing and agriculture may have affected the ecosystem. The gray hawk population increased and expanded from mesquite (Prosopis spp.)-dominated areas that they historically occupied into areas that were dominated by grassland. In contrast with the 1990s, percent of mesquite cover in pairs' territories did not correlate with their productivity. Gray hawk diets also included more mammals in our study period, particularly in territories with more grassland. We propose that conservation measures created habitat for gray hawks in areas that were previously unsuitable by allowing grasslands to regenerate and become habitat for their prey, and that management strategies in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area could serve as a model for conservation of other desert riparian ecosystems.
- Buteo plagiatus
- San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
- gray hawk
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation