The Missouri National Recreational River is comprised of two free-flowing portions of the river along the Nebraska-South Dakota border, the 39-mile and the 59-mile sections. The lands surrounding these river corridors support a broad diversity of ecosystems, ranging from wetlands and sand bars to cottonwood and bur oak woodlands as well as native prairie and grasslands. These diverse habitats support an equally diverse community of birds, including the endangered interior least tern and the threatened piping plover.
The Northern Great Plains Inventory and Monitoring Network developed a bird monitoring protocol jointly with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (formerly the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory), and three other Inventory and Monitoring Networks: Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, and Southern Plains. The basic sampling unit is a 1 square km grid that contains 16 evenly-spaced sample points, separated by 250 m. Observers stand at pre-determined fixed points and record birds observed or heard over a 6-minute period. After completing the survey, observers navigate to the next point using GPS units.
Landbird surveys have been conducted at Missouri National Recreational River since the 2015 breeding season. This research is the beginning of a long-term effort to monitor species trends and densities. In 2016, a total of 3,152 birds representing 97 species were recorded during surveys.