Birds of Yellowstone
Records of bird sightings have been kept in Yellowstone since its establishment in 1872; these records document 330 species of birds to date, of which approximately 148 species are known to nest in the park. Yellowstone is surprisingly rich in bird diversity given the harsh environmental conditions that characterize the landscape. The variation in elevation and broad array of habitat types found within the park contributes to the region's relatively high diversity. The Yellowstone Bird Program monitors a small portion of its breeding bird species with the broad goal of gathering information (e.g. reproduction, abundance, habitat use) on multiple species from a wide variety of avian taxonomic groups as well as to maintain long-term datasets (>20 years) for several species. Maintenance of long-term monitoring efforts will help inform us of potential shifts in ecosystem function (e.g. climate change effects) for Yellowstone's bird community and may guide future management decisions with the aim of conserving avian resources in the park. Over 3 million visitors are welcomed by Yellowstone every year, many of them avid bird watchers. It is our goal to share with the public information on Yellowstone's diversity of bird life and the status of Yellowstone birds.
As of January 2011…
Number in Yellowstone
Three species, the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and osprey, are monitored under the Raptor Monitoring Program. With the removal of the peregrine falcon and bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 1999 and 2007 respectively, there are currently no federally listed bird species in Yellowstone. However, monitoring efforts for these species will continue to contribute to Yellowstone's long-term dataset and to meeting the monitoring obligations outlined in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) post-delisting monitoring plans.
Trumpeter swans, common loons and colony nesting species, including the double-crested cormorant and American white pelican, are included in the Wetland Bird Monitoring Program.The trumpeter swan is of particular concern in the park due to a locally declining population and low reproductive success during the last several decades and continues to be studied to help establish causal factors for observed declines.The breeding bird survey (BBS), willow-bird survey, and the newly added forest-burn survey established in 2009 are part of the Passerine and Near Passerine Monitoring Program. This program was recently expanded to fill the gap in knowledge regarding the abundance and habitat use by passerines and closely allied species in the park.This program is particularly important since species in this group represent the majority of all species found within Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone Raptor Initiative (YRI) is a new (2011) scientifically based project focused on diurnal and nocturnal raptors within Yellowstone National Park.This effort was developed to compliment the Yellowstone National Park Bird Program and will focus on the role of aerial predators in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.Increased monitoring of diurnal raptors began in 2010 via a nominal, competitive grant from the University of Wyoming Park Cooperative.The initial pilot year field effort was incredibly successful (see the 2010 Annual Report for results of this pilot study), and led to the conception of a five-year project funded in annual increments by the Yellowstone Park Foundation.The initial objectives of the program focus on expanding inventory and monitoring from the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon to raptors not traditionally covered under the core Yellowstone Bird Program particularly red-tailed hawks (ostensibly Yellowstone's most common breeding raptor), golden eagles, and Swainson's hawks.
Did You Know?
There were no wolves in Yellowstone in 1994. The wolves that were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996 thrived and there are now over 300 of their descendents living in the Greater Yellowstone Area.