Volunteer Bird Monitoring at Homestead National Monument of America

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.

Central Mixed-grass Prairie Bird Conservation Region Map
Central Mixed-grass Prairie Bird Conservation Region



For details on methods of bird surveys see Peitz et al. (2008).
  • Bird communities were monitored at 9 points by Jesse M. Bolli and Joshua B. Grey on May 16th.
  • 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 (Sharpe et al. 2001).
  • 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 of volunteer bird data at Homestead National Monument of America
Figure 2. Concentrations of plots with high (yellow) to higher (red) and low (light blue) to lower (dark blue) breeding bird species richness at Homestead National Monument of America, Nebraska in 2016.

Summary of Findings:

  • Thirty-four bird species were observed during surveys. All 34 species are resident or summer resident species thus considered breeding species at HOME (Table 1).
  • The most commonly occurring and widespread birds on HOME are the Dickcissel and Red-winged Blackbird, respectively.
  • Two species – Bell’s Vireo and Red-headed Woodpecker - are of conservation concern for the Central Mixed-grass Prairie Bird Conservation Region were recorded (Figure 1).
  • Hot-spot-analysis showed that species richness varied across the Monument (Figure 2).
Table 1. Number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots out of eight occupied by breeding bird species at Homestead National Monument of America, Nebraska during the 2016 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
American Crow R 0.22 0.11
American Goldfinch R 0.33 0.22
American Robin R 0.89 0.56
Baltimore Oriole SR 0.22 0.22
Barn Swallow SR 0.22 0.11
Bell’s Vireo SR 0.11 0.11
Blue Jay R 0.56 0.22
Brown-headed Cowbird R 0.44 0.11
Brown Thrasher SR 0.11 0.11
Canada Goose R 0.78 0.44
Common Grackle SR 0.11 0.11
Common Yellowthroat SR 1.56 0.78
Dickcissel SR 2.22 0.56
Eastern Kingbird SR 0.11 0.11
Eastern Meadowlark R 0.33 0.22
Eastern Towhee SR 0.22 0.22
Eastern Wood-pewee SR 0.44 0.33
Eurasian Collared Dove R 0.22 0.22
European Starling R 0.11 0.11
Field Sparrow SR 0.33 0.33
Gray Catbird SR 0.33 0.22
Great Blue Heron R 0.33 0.11
Grasshopper Sparrow SR 0.11 0.11
House Wren SR 1.56 0.33
Mourning Dove R 0.78 0.67
Northern Bobwhite R 0.44 0.22
Northern Cardinal R 0.33 0.33
Northern Rough-winged Swallow SR 0.33 0.22
Red-bellied Woodpecker R 0.78 0.44
Red-headed Woodpecker R 0.11 0.11
Red-winged Blackbird R 2.00 0.44
Ring-necked Pheasant R 1.11 0.33
White-breasted Nuthatch R 0.22 0.11
Wild Turkey R 0.11 0.11

1 Residency status: R = year around resident; SR = summer resident (Sharpe et al. 2001).
Bolded species names are those species considered of conservation concern for the
Central Mixed-grass Prairie Bird Conservation Region. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008).

Visit the Datastore to download the full report.

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 3, 2018