Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

David A. Buehler

Committee Members

Nathan Sanders, Frank van Manen, Ben Fitzpatrick


Habitat loss and fragmentation caused by tourist development along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico represents a big threat to the survival of Nearctic-Neotropical migratory songbirds. This habitat plays a crucial role for successful migration for many migratory birds. However, the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on these birds have not been well documented in the region. From September- December, 2006-2008, we mist-netted and conducted transect surveys to assess the variation in the avian community among three different levels of development (high, medium and low). The study area included two small reserves (10-20 ha) in the hotel zone associated with the Riviera Maya (high development), two sites with limited development within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve associated with small fishing camps (medium development), and two undeveloped sites located on a private ranch within Sian Ka’an (low development). I assessed species richness and abundance of four avian groups: the entire community, year-round residents, winter residents, and transients. Species richness and abundance decreased significantly with the greatest levels of disturbance. The high development level had the least species richness and abundance, whereas the medium development level had the greatest richness for all bird classes. However, my results suggest that small reserves in the hotel zone can be important compliments to the large, undisturbed reserves (Sian Ka’an) for both resident and migrant birds. Forty-six percent of all birds species captured in mist nets were Nearctic-Neotropical migrants; thus this group composed a significant component of the avian community. The dominance in the year-round resident community by the endemic Black Catbird (Dumetella glabrirostris) at medium and low development sites showed that coastal dune vegetation is also important in maintaining populations of endemic species, which are sensitive to levels of disturbance. The use of two different survey methods (mist-netting and transect surveys) produced complimentary descriptions of community composition. Because many year-round resident species and migrants depend on this scarce and discontinuous coastal habitat, and because of the intense development pressure on this coastal zone, better conservation strategies are needed to successfully sustain the avian community of this region.

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