Bird Community Monitoring at Effigy Mounds National Monument

Bald Eagle at Effigy Mounds National Monument
Bald Eagle at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

NPS-Photo

Birds are and important part of the world we live in. The eat pests, disperse seeds, pollinate plants, feed us, and provide us with recreational activities such as bird-watching and hunting. Park interpretive programs often feature birds because of the enjoyment they provide. Birds are also great indicators of change due to their high metabolism and position in the food web. Bird communities can serve as the "canary in the coal mine" so to speak for ecosystems. Unfortunately many birds, such as the Northern Bobwhite are declining in numbers for many reasons, such as habitat loss.
Scientists measure changes in bird abundance and habitat to determine the health of bird communities. They survey birds in the park during breeding season. They also survey habitat structure and composition. Together, the data helps researchers to determine responses of birds to their habitat. Regional surveys are also studied to determine local vs. regional trends.
Scientists have recorded 102 bird species in the park over the last 9 years. Ninety of which are breeding species found in the park. Eight species are considered species of concern for the region. The American Redstart, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were the most common species. The American Redstart is the only species whose population greatly increased in size over the last 9 years. The Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Red-winged Blackbird are increasing in the park and decreasing within the region. Several bird species had unreliable population trends but none had negative trends. This suggests that the park’s habitat is good or better than region-wide habitat.

Bird population changes may reflect management activities, like restoring and maintaining specific habitats. For that reason scientists track changes in bird populations over time. Thus improving our understanding of birds and their specific habitat needs. Preserving habitat for birds preserves entire ecosystems for the benefit of all species.
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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.

Last updated: March 16, 2018