Bird use of three created salt marsh islands, constructed from dredged material near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA, was compared with that of natural marsh to provide feedback prior to additional marsh construction. Habitat associations of four bird groups (shorebirds, perching birds, wading birds, and gulls and terns) were similar in all sites, but relative contributions of each group to total avian abundance differed. Differences in site-use by birds were largely explained by differences in ratios of available habitat types, which were products of their geomorphic designs. Created marsh designs differed substantially from the natural marsh, where the unvegetated exposed-substrate and shallow-water habitats preferred by waterbirds were prominent features. The oldest created site (four years old) differed most from the natural marsh. Intertidal areas in the site were almost completely overgrown by vegetation, resulting in dominance of the avian assemblage by perching birds (especially grackles, Quiscalus spp.) rather than waterbirds. In the newer created sites (two years old), where vegetation had not completely overgrown the intertidal areas, avian assemblages were more typical of the natural marsh. However, vegetation cover was expanding in these sites, causing a reduction in waterbird habitat area. Efforts to ensure availability of unvegetated habitat in created sites will improve their structural similarity to natural marsh in the study area, and will likely increase their functional similarity for avian species.
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Vol. 27 • No. 3