National Park Service

Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)

atmospheric deposition and stress


Birds (class Aves) are winged, bipedal, endothermic (warm-blooded), egg-laying, vertebrate animals. There are around 10,000 living species, making them the most numerous tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) Bee Hummingbird to the 3 m (10 ft) Ostrich. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period, around 150 to 200 Ma (million years ago), and the earliest known bird is the Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx, c 150 to 145 Ma. Most paleontologists regard birds as the only clade of dinosaurs to have survived the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event approximately 65.5 Ma.

"Landbirds" is an informal name for a large and diverse group of birds that encompasses relatively small, terrestrial birds, excluding raptors and upland game birds. This includes most of the familiar groups of land birds, including the largest order, Passeriformes, which comprises over half of all bird species.

"Mountain birds", a specific category of breeding birds, are a primary interest of A.T.resource managers. Mountain birds are dependent upon montane sprucefir forest, an uncommon habitat type in northern New England.

Importance and Issues

hermit thrushBirds are an important component of park ecosystems, and their high body temperature, rapid metabolism, and prominent position in most food webs make them a good indicator of local and regional ecosystem change. It has been suggested that management activities aimed at preserving habitat for bird populations, such as for neotropical migrants, can have the added benefit of preserving entire ecosystems and their attendant ecosystem services.Moreover, among the public, birds are a high profile taxa, and many parks provide information on the status and trends of the park's avian community through their interpretive materials and programs.

In developing comprehensive long-term monitoring plans, birds are among the best taxonomic groups to monitor because: 1) they are the most easily and inexpensively detected and identified vertebrate animals, 2) a single survey method is effective for many species, 3) accounting and managing for many species with different ecological requirements promotes conservation strategies at the landscape scale, 4) many reference datasets and standard methods are available, and 5) the response variability is fairly well understood.

Monitoring Objectives

Because birds are an important natural resource and they are a robust indicator of ecosystem integrity, the overall goal of landbird monitoring is to track the status and trends of breeding landbirds within Network parks. Breeding landbird monitoring will also support and inform management decisions that may affect avian populations. Additional goals are to increase the visibility of the I&M program and to involve the public with the network's monitoring program.

Sample Measures

Determine annual changes and long-term trends in species composition of native and non-native forest passerine species during the breeding season in 8 NETN parks (listed above).The focus will be on forest and woodland sampling, except at Saratoga, where grasslands will also be sampled.

Determine annual changes in relative abundance of: 10 most commonly detected species at each park and combined suite of PIF Priority Species, as determined by BCR.

Improve our understanding of breeding bird/habitat relationships and the effects that management actions, such as silvicultural practices and mowing regimes, have on bird populations. In addition, correlate changes in bird communities with site-specific information about park management activities and with changes in habitat metrics collected at co-located forest condition plots.

Determine which of the following factors explain variations in the abundance of A.T. target species through space and time: habitat characteristics, topography, climate, latitude/longitude, landscape structure, red squirrel abundance, mercury exposure, calcium availability, forestry practices, and extent of wet broadleaf forest in Hispaniola (Bicknell’s Thrush only).


Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster