Volunteer Bird Monitoring at Arkansas Post National Memorial

Birds are an important part of the world we live in. They eat pests, spread seeds, pollinate plants, feed us, and provide enjoyment. And, they are beautiful, flying creatures. Who hasn’t wanted to soar like a bird at one time or another? Birds are a significant component of park ecosystems. Their habitat requirements and diverse diets make birds good indicators of changes in an ecosystem – the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. But, many grassland and woodland birds are declining in number. There are many reasons, such as habitat loss, global warming, wind turbines, and cats.

We track the types and numbers of birds that nest in national parks to determine the health of bird communities. We do this by surveying birds during the breeding season. We also characterize their habitat. For example, the amount of forest and grassland, and vegetation structure. Over time, we look for trends in the community. For context, we compare our findings to trends in the region. Long-term population trends in the bird community help us to assess the quality and sustainability of park ecosystems.
Mississippi Alluvial Valley Bird Conservation Region map
Figure 1. Mississippi Alluvial Valley Bird Conservation Region.

NPS

Methods:

For details on methods of bird surveys see Peitz et al. (2008).
  • Bird communities were monitored at 34 points by Kirby N. McCallie, Erik F. Ditzler, Brian E. Sheetz, and Gabrielle M. Hargrove, between June 6th and June 11th.
  • All birds seen or heard in a 5-minute sampling period at each plot were recorded.
  • Residency status of each species was established prior to analysis of the data (James and Neal 1986).
  • Using hot-spot-analysis in ArcGIS, areas of higher and lower species richness on the memorial were determined.
  • Calculated number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots occupied by a species.
Hot Spot Analysis of Bird Monitoring Data at ARPO
Figure 2.Concentrations of plots with high (yellow) to higher (red) and low (light blue) to lower (dark blue) breeding bird species richness at Arkansas Post National Monument, Arkansas in 2018.

NPS

Summary of Findings:

  • Forty-three bird species were observed during surveys. All 43 species are resident or summer resident species thus considered breeding species at ARPO (Table 1).
  • The most commonly occurring and widespread bird on ARPO was the Yellow-billed Cuckoo followed by Northern cardinal.
  • Five species – Dickcissel, Kentucky Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Prothonotary Warbler, and Wood Thrush – are species of conservation concern for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley Bird Conservation Region (Figure 1).
  • Hot-spot-analysis showed higher than expected species richness on the southern section of the Main Unit of ARPO and lower than expected richness on plots sampled in the northern section of this unit (Figure 2). Plots on the Osotouy Unit had average species richness.
Number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots out of 27 occupied by breeding bird species at Arkansas Post National Monument, Arkansas during the 2018 bird surveys. Number of individuals per plot, and proportion of plots occupied includes all individuals recorded on plots during a 5-minute survey, including flyovers.
Common name Residency1 Individuals / plot visit Proportion of
plots occupied
Acadian Flycatcher SR 0.26 0.18
American Coot R 0.12 0.12
American Crow R 0.15 0.15
American Robin R 0.03 0.03
Baltimore Oriole SR 0.29 0.21
Barred Owl SR 0.06 0.03
Blue Jay R 0.40 0.30
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher SR 0.53 0.29
Brown-headed Cowbird R 0.59 0.29
Brown Thrasher R 0.06 0.06
Carolina Chickadee R 0.09 0.09
Carolina Wren R 0.35 0.32
Common Grackle R 0.24 0.06
Common Moorhen SR 0.06 0.06
Common Yellowthroat SR 0.09 0.09
Dickcissel SR 0.03 0.03
Eastern Towhee R 0.15 0.12
Eastern Wood-pewee SR 0.85 0.47
Great Blue Heron R 0.06 0.03
Great-crested Flycatcher SR 0.21 0.18
Gray Catbird SR 0.06 0.06
Great Egret SR 0.12 0.09
Hairy Woodpecker R 0.15 0.15
Hooded Warbler SR 0.03 0.03
Indigo Bunting SR 0.41 0.29
Kentucky Warbler SR 0.15 0.15
Mourning Dove R 0.71 0.41
Northern Cardinal R 0.79 0.56
Northern Mockingbird R 0.12 0.09
Northern Parula SR 0.12 0.12
Orchard Oriole SR 0.03 0.03
Pied-billed Grebe R 0.06 0.06
Pileated Woodpecker R 0.44 0.29
Prothonotary Warbler SR 0.24 0.12
Purple Gallinule SR 0.12 0.09
Red-bellied Woodpecker R 0.74 0.44
Red-eyed Vireo SR 0.03 0.03
Red-winged Blackbird R 0.15 0.09
Summer Tanager SR 0.59 0.41
Tufted Titmouse R 0.44 0.26
Wood Thrush SR 0.15 0.12
Yellow-breasted Chat SR 0.12 0.12
Yellow-billed Cuckoo SR 1.79 0.74
1 Residency status: R = year around resident; SR = summer resident (James and Neal 1986).
Bolded species names are those species considered of conservation concern for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley Bird Conservation Region (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008).

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Data in this report were collected and analyzed using methods based on established, peer-reviewed protocols and were analyzed and interpreted within the guidelines of the protocols.

Data for year 2018 have undergone quality control and certification, but not previously published.

Last updated: December 4, 2018