Volunteer Bird Monitoring at Pipestone 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.
Prairie Potholes Bird Conservation Region Map.
Figure 1. Prairie Potholes Bird Conservation Region. Conservation Region.



For details on methods of bird surveys see Peitz et al. (2008).
  • Bird communities were monitored at 17 points by Seth B. Hendriks, Chris D. Langland, and Lauren H. Blacik, on June 1st.
  • 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 (Janssen et al. 2003).
  • 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 of volunteer bird data from Pipestone National Monument.
Figure 2.Concentrations of plots with high (yellow) to higher (red) and low (light blue) to lower (dark blue) breeding bird species richness at Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota in 2018.


Summary of Findings:

  • Forty-four bird species were observed during surveys. Forty-one of the 44 species are resident or summer resident species thus considered breeding species at PIPE (Table 1).
  • The most commonly occurring and widespread bird species on PIPE are the Canada Goose, Dickcissel, and American Goldfinch, respectively.
  • Two species – Dickcissel and Grasshopper Sparrow – are a species of conservation concern for the Prairie Potholes Bird Conservation Region (Figure 1).
  • Hot-spot-analysis showed that species richness was quite variable across the Monument (Figure 2).
Table 1. Number of individuals encountered per plot visit, and proportion of plots out of 17 occupied by breeding bird species at Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota 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 Residency1 Individuals / plot visit Proportion of plots occupied
American Crow R 0.35 0.29
American Goldfinch R 1.88 0.71
American Robin R 0.12 0.12
Baltimore Oriole SR 0.06 0.06
Barn Swallow SR 0.41 0.18
Black-capped Chickadee R 0.06 0.06
Blue-winged Teal SR 0.06 0.06
Bobolink SR 1.41 0.82
Brown-headed Cowbird SR 0.53 0.47
Canada Goose SR 1.94 0.18
Clay-colored Sparrow SR 0.59 0.41
Cedar Waxwing R 0.12 0.06
Chipping Sparrow SR 0.06 0.06
Common Grackle SR 0.71 0.35
Common Nighthawk SR 0.06 0.06
Common Yellowthroat SR 0.65 0.65
Dickcissel SR 1.65 0.94
Downey Woodpecker R 0.06 0.06
Eastern Kingbird SR 0.35 0.18
Eastern Meadowlark T 0.18 0.18
Eastern Phoebe SR 0.06 0.06
Field Sparrow SR 0.10 0.10
Grasshopper Sparrow SR 1.00 0.65
Gray Catbird SR 0.06 0.06
Great Blue Heron SR 0.06 0.06
Green Heron SR 0.06 0.06
Henslow’s Sparrow SR 0.24 0.18
House Finch R 0.06 0.06
House Wren SR 0.18 0.18
Killdeer SR 0.10 0.10
Mourning Dove R 0.29 0.24
Northern Flicker R 0.06 0.06
Ruby-crowned Kinglet M 0.06 0.06
Red-winged Blackbird SR 1.41 0.65
Ring-neck Pheasant R 0.76 0.65
Savannah Sparrow SR 0.18 0.18
Sedge Wren SR 0.35 0.24
Song Sparrow R 0.18 0.12
Tree Swallow SR 0.06 0.06
Turkey Vulture SR 0.41 0.12
Wild Turkey R 0.06 0.06
Wood Duck SR 0.06 0.06
White-throated Sparrow M 0.06 0.06
Yellow Warbler SR 0.18 0.18

1 Residency status: M = Migrant: R = year around resident; SR = summer resident; T = transient (Janssen et al. 2003).
Bolded species names are those species considered of conservation concern for the Prairie Potholes Bird Conservation Region – U.S. portion only (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: October 8, 2020