Monitoring: Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Bird Populations

Monitoring is an essential component of wildlife management and conservation science. Effective monitoring programs can identify species that are at-risk due to small or declining populations, provide an understanding of how management actions affect populations, evaluate population responses to landscape alteration and climate change, and provide basic information on species distributions. Given the alarming, large-scale declines of bird populations and the loss, fragmentation and degradation of native habitats, the need for rigorous bird monitoring programs is greater than ever.

At Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, our bird monitoring programs determine population status and trends for species at local and regional levels. Our primary programs are designed to obtain count-based data for diurnal breeding bird species using a randomized, spatially balanced sampling design. We also develop custom programs for specific species, including rare, colonial and non-breeding species, to collect distribution, abundance and trend information.

Click below to learn more about the Bird Conservancy’s monitoring programs.

Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) Program

Every year in late spring and summer, biologists and technicians traipse across mountains, prairies and deserts to survey birds under the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. The program, coordinated by the Bird Conservancy, is one of the largest of its kind in North America, stretching across public and private land in many states in the western United States. Learn more about the IMBCR program.

State Programs

In 1995, the Bird Conservancy and partners began efforts to create and conduct a Colorado-wide program to monitor breeding bird populations. This was the first attempt in the nation to develop and implement a statewide all-bird monitoring plan. Today, statewide bird monitoring takes place in several states, including Colorado and Wyoming, as part of the larger Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program.

National Parks Programs

More than 270 parks managed by the National Park Service are organized into a system of 32 eco-regional networks linked by similar geographic and natural resource characteristics. The Bird Conservancy works with the National Park Service to monitor birds on several of these networks. The Bird Conservancy has conducted habitat-based surveys in the Northern Colorado Plateau Network since 2005. In 2013, the Bird Conservancy began monitoring birds in the Northern Great Plains Network under the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program.

National Forest Programs

National forests and grasslands provide important habitat for diverse bird species. In 2001, the Bird Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service began a partnership to monitor bird populations on Forest Service lands, including National Grasslands. Before then, no long-term bird monitoring programs existed for National Grasslands. Today, the Bird Conservancy monitors bird populations on forests and grasslands across several Forest Service regions, including all of Region 1 and Region 2 and portions of Region 3 and Region 4, as part of the larger Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program.

BLM Projects

Bureau of Land Management lands in the western United States provide key habitat for a variety of sagebrush and grassland species The Bird Conservancy partners with the BLM to survey birds on BLM lands in several western states, including Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota, as part of the larger Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program.

National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Project

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is an independent organization created to manage large‐scale ecological observing systems and experiments on behalf of the scientific community. Its mission is to design, implement and operate continental scale research infrastructure, to open new horizons in ecological science and education, and to enable ecological analyses and forecasts for the benefit of society. The Bird Conservancy partners with NEON to conduct breeding bird surveys across many of its ecological sites in the United States. Through this project, the Bird Conservancy is teaming up with partners across the U.S. to survey approximately 60 different sites from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

Mountains to Plains Project

The Bird Conservancy has partnered with the City of Fort Collins to inventory and monitor grassland birds on city-owned properties in northern Colorado. Learn more about the Mountains to Plains project.

International Programs

Many bird species migrate thousands of miles a year, living a large portion of their lives on wintering grounds outside of the U.S. The Bird Conservancy monitors these birds during the winter months, with a focus on the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands and other areas in Mexico. Learn more about our monitoring work abroad on our International pages.

For more information:
Brandt Ryder
Chief Conservation Scientist
970-482-1707 x 43