Monitoring songbirds and their close relatives (e.g. woodpeckers and hummingbirds) can indicate important changes to habitats. By monitoring population trends in several species using the same survey methods, and performing complementary studies to reveal information on productivity and survival, biologists can discern important clues about change in regional habitats. A decline in an insect-eating warbler's population, for example, may indicate something different than a decline in a seed-dependent sparrow species.
This program monitors landbirds in riparian (along waterways) habitats of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. We focus on riparian habitat due to its importance to landbirds, broader ecosystem function, and the habitat's distribution within the parks. These habitats also support other species under study such as coho salmon. Results of multiple monitoring programs may thereby provide us with an understanding of ecosystem changes, particularly in the context of climate change.
Because many of the landbird species being monitored are migratory, we share information with regional and international partners. Other species in the study are resident year-round and thereby provide a more local understanding of ecological health.
The San Francisco Bay Area network collaborates with Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly the Point Reyes Bird Observatory), which has conducted landbird monitoring in the region since 1965. Monitoring has been done continually at the Palomarin Field Station since 1966. In addition to riparian point-count surveys conducted under the vital sign monitoring program, Point Blue has also conducted annual standardized point-count surveys, nest searching, and constant effort mist-netting at select locations within Point Reyes and Golden Gate for over a decade.