Riparian buffers can be valuable refuge areas for wildlife in otherwise homogeneous agricultural landscapes. Government sponsored programs like the Cropland Reserve Program generally require the planting of specific vegetative species during buffer restoration, although the effectiveness of such an approach when compared to restoration by volunteer species is unknown. We studied the effect of differences in vegetation structure on avian habitat in riparian buffer zones. A 25 m (82 ft) wide planted woodland buffer, 30 m (98 ft) wide grass, shrub, and woodland three-zone buffer, and a 9 m (30 ft) wide shrub buffer were evaluated for habitat potential using breeding-bird counts and vegetation surveys. Bird density and species richness varied with the structure of the vegetative communities present at the three sites. Avian species richness and total detections were higher in the three-zone buffer than in both the shrub and planted buffer, likely a result of the diversity of vegetation at the site. These data suggest that restoration of riparian areas by allowing fallow vegetation to recolonize is at the very least equally beneficial to avian wildlife as is restoration by planting specific grass, shrub, and tree species. Buffer restoration by natural revegetation using this method could be recommended as an alternative to implementation by planting riparian species due to its simplicity and cost effectiveness.