Bird Community Monitoring at Pipestone National Monument

Bobolink perched in the prairie at Pipestone National Monument
Bobolink perched in the prairie at Pipestone National Monument.

NPS-Photo

Birds are an important part of the world we live in. They eat pests, disperse seeds, pollinate plants, 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 92 bird species in the park over the last 9 years. Eighty of which are breeding species found in the park. The Bobolink, Common Grackle, and Clay-colored Sparrow were the most common. Six species recorded were considered species of concern for the region. Six species showed an increase within the park compared to only 3 species increasing within the region. The Common Yellowthroat had a significant population increase in the park but is declining within the region. This suggests that the habitat in the park is good or better than the rest of the region.

Bird population changes may reflect management activities, such as 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: July 25, 2018