The Niobrara NSR monitored the threatened piping plover and endangered least tern from 2001 to 2006. An eastern portion of the scenic river stretch was designated as critical habitat for these birds. A yearly census was taken, and nest monitoring, egg floating (aging), nesting success and other parameters were noted. In 2007 the NPS adopted a less invasive approach and basically does an annual adult census, locates nesting colonies and notes nests and number of eggs, but no longer floats eggs or attempts to determine nesting fate. These populations were relatively stable until 2007, when census numbers were down significantly. 2008 surveys will tell if the numbers rebound are not. This decline may be due in part to poor weather, higher river levels that wipe out nesting attempts, human disturbance, livestock disturbance, predation or other unknown factors.
The NPS records sightings of whooping cranes in spring and fall, and also records bald eagle sightings year-round. We hope to locate eagle nests (if any are present) in the winter of 2007/8.