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Breeding Bird Surveys

Migratory Bird Threats

Bird populations are subjected to numerous widespread threats including:

  • Habitat loss
  • Habit fragmentation
  • Land-use changes
  • Chemical contaminants

The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a long-term, large-scale, international avian monitoring program initiated in 1966 to track the status and trends of North American bird pupulations. The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Canadian Wildlife Service National Wildlife Research Center jointly coordinate the BBS Program.

The BBS program in North America currently consists of over 4,100 routes, with approximately 3,000 of these being sampled each year. BBS data provide long-term species abundance and distribution trends across a broad geographic scale. These data have been used to estimate population changes for hundreds of bird species, and they are the primary source for regional conservation programs and modeling efforts. Because of the broad spatial extent of the surveys, BBS data is the foundation for broad conservation assessments extending beyond local jurisdictional boundaries.

INL Site Breeding Bird Surveys

In June and early July of almost every year since 1985, ESER scientists gather data along five routes that are part of a nationwide survey administered by the USGS and eight additional routes near INL Site facilities. . Data from remote routes contribute to the USGS continent-wide analyses of bird trends and also provide information that local managers can use to track and understand population trends. Data from facility routes may be useful in detecting whether INL activities cause measurable impacts on abundance and diversity of native birds.

Highlights from 2019 Breeding Bird Survey

  • 3,425 birds from 53 species weeerobservedre .
  • Most numerous species observed included western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta, n= 806), horned lark (Eremophila alpestris, n= 633), sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus, n= 442), Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri, n= 237), and sagebrush sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis, n= 218). These five species have been the five most abundant birds observed 26 times during the past 33 years of surveys, and in the other years they were among the seven most abundant species.
  • Species observed during the 2019 BBS that are considered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as Species of Greatest Conservation Need included the sage thrasher, sagebrush sparrow, Franklin’s gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan, n= 507), common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor, n= 29), ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis, n= 15), greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, n= 5), grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum, n= 4), long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus, n= 7), and burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia, n= 1).
  • Sagebrush obligates such as the Brewer’s and sagebrush sparrow continue to be observed at near-historical lows, likely as a result of large wildfires. Observations of sagebrush obligates were 40% lower than the average count in the 33 years of surveys.
  • Raven (Corvus corax) observations were the fourth highest count since the beginning of the breeding bird surveys on the INL Site.

Number of birds observed during Breeding Bird Surveys on the Idaho National Laboratory Site. The dashed black line indicates the mean number of birds observed from 1985 to 2019. No BBSs were conducted on the INL Site in 1992 or 1993.

©2020 ESER Program.