Black Cottonwood

From the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

To many people, the spicy-sweet smell of cottonwood buds herald thewarming days of spring. Birds value cottonwoods in the spring as well. Early migrant songbirds headed north to their breeding grounds are dependent on the insect food resources that occur first in these lowland riparian habitats while the forests and montane habitats are still under a blanket of winter. Large cottonwood trees and the gallery forests that form where stands of mature cottonwood trees occur, often are referred to as a “keystone” species or habitat. That is, they have a large impact on the ecosystem relative to their abundance on the landscape. Breeding and migratory bird densities in these cottonwood habitats are generally the highest of all habitat types in North America. Mature stands of cottonwood trees also are essential nesting habitat for larger birds that need big trees for their nests such as bald eagles, great-horned owls, and a number of colonial nesters including greatblue herons. Mammals, amphibians and reptiles often are abundant in streamside habitats throughout Oregon. Through cooperative efforts such as The Oregon Plan for Salmon and the Willamette Restoration Initiative, riparian habitats are being restored. Initial efforts of wood placement, invasive non-native plant control, and riparian vegetation planting have begun to show early positive benefits. Maintenance of cottonwood gallery forests also will require new tools for restoring vital floodplain functions.