Important Bird Areas

Gilbert Riparian Preserves (Water Ranch and Neely wetlands)

Arizona

The Riparian Preserves consist of two areas: 110 acres at Site 1 (Water Ranch) consisting of riparian, upland, and open water habitats. Seven recharge basins that replicate wet/dry periods are managed as a part of the City of Gilbert water treatment facility. The Riparian Institute and City of Gilbert host many educational programs at this site that is open to the public. Site 2 (Neely Ponds) is similar, with 11 recharge basins on 72 acres. Public access is restricted because the recharge water at this location has not been disinfected. The site does have viewing ramadas and interpretive signage.

Ornithological Summary

This IBA is a migration and over-wintering concentration ?hot spot? for shorebirds in Arizona. This site consists of two wetland complexes in close proximity (Neely and Water Ranch) that are part of the city of Gilbert?s water treatment facility, which are managed for wildlife and wildlife viewing (Water Ranch). These wetlands are positioned within a landscape of widespread urban, agriculture, and desert in the mid-section of the state, thus providing an important oasis for shorebirds in migration. The wetland complexes support significant numbers of shorebirds who find ideal foraging habitat in settling basins of each complex. The wetlands have ponds of varying water levels that also provide roosting and foraging habitat for many waterbird and waterfowl species. The upland habitat is native desert scrub, as well as sedge and grasslands in dry basins. Shorebird diversity is high with 14 species using the wetland basins over the two sites (Water Ranch 14 species and Neely 11 species). The species in highest concentrations during migration and ?winter? periods are the Long-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, and Black-necked Stilt. American Avocet join these species in lower numbers primarily during the spring migration period. Peak numbers of all shorebird species (on a single day) over the two wetland complexes are 1100 shorebirds during spring and fall migration periods, and near 800 shorebirds during winter. Peregrine Falcon regularly are present during the migration period. Burrowing owl (a USFWS Bird of Conservation Concern) nest in burrows installed for them at the Water Ranch site. American Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike regularly use and may nest on site. IBA program surveys (5/04-4/05) recorded 94 species within this IBA (Water Ranch=59 species, Neely 77 species, Maricopa Audubon IBA Team).All shorebird species includes:
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous), American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia), Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla), Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus), Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus), Wilson?s Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Wilson?s Phalerope (Phalaropus tricolor).

Conservation Issues

Predation by feral cats, and disturbance from
human activities-including recreational and facility management. Without
abatement of the feral cat threat the site may be a population “sink” for breeding birds.

Ownership

Gilbert Riparian Preserves is 100% privately owned land covering an area of 77.77 hectares in total.

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