National Park Service

North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN)

Landbird Monitoring

 Gray jay
Gray jay

Resource Briefs

Inventory Reports

Monitoring Reports

Landbird Monitoring Protocol

For more information contact:
Jason Ransom (NOCA) or Rodney Siegel (Institute for Bird Populations - cooperator)

Importance & Issues

Populations of many common and rare bird species in the Pacific Northwest are believed to be declining. Besides being important in their own right, landbirds are an important ecosystem component (e.g., providing seed dispersal and insect control) and are good indicators of the effects of local and regional changes in ecosystems. This project uses robust scientific methods to assess which species have declining, stable, or increasing populations in the North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN) parks, and, where possible, formulates and assesses hypotheses about causes of population change.

Parks Monitored

Monitoring Objectives

Our primary objective is to detect trends in the density of as many landbird species (including passerines, near-passerines, and galliformes) as possible throughout accessible areas of five NCCN parks during the breeding season. As a secondary objective, the data we collect also allow us to track changes in the breeding season distribution of birds throughout the parks, which may occur in response to climate change.


We monitor park bird populations by conducting annual counts of all bird species heard or seen during a seven-minute survey at well over 1,000 sampling locations across the parks. In brief, the sample design for the three large parks utilizes six panels of point-count transects (each comprising approximately 14 count stations) in each park. At NOCA and OLYM, each panel includes four low-elevation transects (transect starting points <650 m), four mid-elevation transects (transect starting points between 650 m and 1,350 m) and four high-elevation transects (transect starting points >1,350 m). At Mount Rainier National Park, the sample design is the same as at the other two large parks, except there are only two low-elevation transects in each panel, and the cutoff between low-elevation transects and mid-elevation transects is 800 m rather than 650 m. All transects start at points on park roads or trails and then extend perpendicularly (or as close to perpendicularly as topographic and physiographic features allow) in both directions away from the trail or road. At the two smaller parks, LEWI and SAJH, rather than using discrete transects, we survey birds in alternating years at count stations arrayed in regular grids that are distributed across the entire park. At all the parks, we use distance sampling to estimate detection probability, and account for birds that may be present but undetected at count stations.


  • Number of species detected
  • Number of exotic species detected
  • Number of Partners in Flight priority species detected
  • Species frequency of occurrence (percent of point count stations where a species was detected) and density (individuals per hectare, by species) during the breeding season.

Management Applications

Parks in the NCCN can fill vital roles as both refuges for bird species dependent on late-successional forests and as reference sites for assessing the effects of land-use and land-cover changes on bird populations throughout the larger Pacific Northwest region. These changes may result from regional activities such as land conversion and forest management, or from broader-scale processes such as global climate change. Monitoring population trends at reference sites in national parks is important because parks are among the few areas in the United States where population trends due to large-scale regional or global change patterns are minimally confounded with local changes in land use. Long-term monitoring of landbirds in the NCCN is also expected to provide information that will inform future decisions about management issues in the parks, including visitor impacts, fire management, and the effects of introduced species.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster