Volunteer Bird Monitoring at Effigy Mounds National Monument

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.
Map of Prairie Hardwoods Transition Bird Conservation Region
Figure 1. Prairie Hardwoods Transition Bird Conservation Region.



For details on methods of bird surveys see Peitz et al. (2008).
  • Bird communities were monitored at 31 points by Jon W. Stravers, between May 24th and June 20th.
  • 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 (Spess-Jackson et al. 1996).
  • Using hot-spot-analysis in ArcGIS, areas of higher and lower species richness on the monument were determined.
  • Calculated number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots occupied by a species.
Hot spot analysis map created using Volunteer Bird Data from EFMO.
Figure 2.Concentrations of plots with high (tan) to higher (red) and low (light blue) to lower (dark blue) breeding bird species richness at Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa in 2018.


Summary of Findings:

  • Fifty-eight bird species were observed during surveys. All 58 species are resident or summer resident species thus considered breeding species at EFMO (Table 1).
  • The most commonly occurring and widespread bird on EFMO is the American Redstart followed by Baltimore Oriole.
  • Six species – Bald Eagle, Blue-winged Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Cerulean Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Willow Flycatcher – are species of conservation concern for the Prairie Hardwoods Transition Bird Conservation Region (Figure 1).
  • Hot-spot-analysis showed areas with concentrations of plots with high and others with low species richness at the Main Unit of EFMO (Figure 2).
Table 1. Number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots out of 31 occupied by breeding bird species at Effigy Mounds, Iowa 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

Individuals / plot visit Proportion of plots occupied
Acadian Flycatcher SR 0.23 0.23
American Crow R 0.16 0.16
American Goldfinch R 0.61 0.48
American Redstart SR 1.23 0.84
American Robin SR 0.87 0.65
Bald Eagle R 0.03 0.03
Baltimore Oriole SR 1.10 0.71
Barn Swallow SR 0.06 0.06
Belted Kingfisher R 0.03 0.03
Black-capped Chickadee R 0.19 0.19
Blue Jay R 0.30 0.30
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher SR 0.36 0.29
Blue-winged Warbler SR 0.10 0.10
Brown-headed Cowbird SR 0.16 0.16
Brown Thrasher SR 0.03 0.03
Canada Goose R 0.03 0.03
Carolina Wren R 0.07 0.07
Cerulean Warbler SR 0.10 0.10
Common Grackle SR 0.58 0.55
Common Yellowthroat SR 0.45 0.39
Downy Woodpecker R 0.29 0.29
Eastern Bluebird SR 0.03 0.03
Eastern Towhee R 0.16 0.16
Eastern Wood-pewee SR 0.84 0.61
Field Sparrow SR 0.10 0.10
Gray Catbird SR 0.39 0.35
Great Blue Heron SR 0.03 0.03
Green Heron SR 0.03 0.03
Hairy Woodpecker R 0.03 0.03
House Wren SR 0.61 0.48
Indigo Bunting SR 0.23 0.23
Killdeer SR 0.03 0.03
Mourning Dove SR 0.06 0.06
Northern Cardinal R 0.29 0.26
Northern Flicker R 0.06 0.06
Ovenbird SR 0.23 0.19
Pileated Woodpecker R 0.29 0.29
Prothonotary Warbler SR 0.19 0.19
Red-bellied Woodpecker R 0.71 0.65
Red-eyed Vireo SR 0.48 0.48
Red-headed Woodpecker SR 0.06 0.06
Red-shouldered Hawk R 0.06 0.06
Red-winged Blackbird R 0.55 0.39
Rose-breasted Grosbeak SR 0.65 0.61
Scarlet Tanager SR 0.23 0.23
Song Sparrow R 0.48 0.39
Tree Swallow SR 0.06 0.06
Turkey Vulture R 0.07 0.03
Warbling Vireo SR 0.16 0.13
White-breasted Nuthatch R 0.35 0.29
Willow Flycatcher SR 0.03 0.03
Wild Turkey R 0.03 0.03
Wood Duck SR 0.03 0.03
Wood Thrush SR 0.16 0.16
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker SR 0.26 0.26
Yellow-billed Cuckoo SR 0.10 0.10
Yellow-throated Vireo SR 0.29 0.29
Yellow Warbler SR 0.10 0.10

1 Residency status: R = year around resident; SR = summer resident (Spess-Jackson et al. 1996).
Bolded species names are those species considered of conservation concern for the Prairie Hardwoods Transition Bird Conservation Region (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008).

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Learn more about the Heartland Inventory & Monitoring Network.

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