Bird Community Monitoring at George Washington Carver National Monument

Bird on tree at George Washington Carver National Monument.
White-breasted Nuthatch on a tree at George Washington Carver 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 94 bird species in the park over the last 9 years. Ninety-one of which are breeding species found in the park. Seven species are considered species of concern for the region. The Dickcissel, Indigo Bunting, and Northern Cardinal were the most common species. The Dickcissel is the only species whose population increased in size over the last 9 years. The Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, and Grasshopper Sparrow need large grasslands to thrive. All three species were found in the park suggesting that the park’s habitat is good for them. Regionally, the Carolina Wren population increased. Whereas the Eastern Meadowlark, Indigo Bunting, and Northern Bobwhite had populations that declined.

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.