National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

Parks in this Network

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Darkeyed junco



Project Summary
Monitoring Protocol (13 MB)

Inventory Reports

Monitoring Reports

SCPN parks have identified vital signs for this project and related monitoring

  1. Bird community composition and abundance
  2. Habitat metrics - tree basal area, sapling density, vegetation cover by functional group, canopy closure
  3. Vegetation composition and structure
  4. Soil stability and upland hydrologic function

Parks and streams where SCPN monitors bird communities

Park Target Ecosystems
Bandelier NM Mixed conifer forest
Canyon de Chelly NM Riparian
Grand Canyon NP Mixed conifer forest,
Pinyon-juniper woodland
Mesa Verde NP Pinyon-juniper woodland
Petrified Forest NP Grassland/shrubland
Wupatki NM Grassland/shrubland

Birds respond quickly to changes in resource conditions and can therefore function as good indicators of ecosystem health. SCPN, through a partnership with Northern Arizona University, is monitoring bird communities associated with specific habitats in selected network parks. Habitat-based bird monitoring will help to identify associations between bird communities and habitat conditions that can be linked to key drivers and stressors in the ecosystem. Bird monitoring study sites overlap with those of the integrated upland monitoring project so that data collected about vegetation structure and soils can add to our understanding of how bird communities respond to changes in specific habitat conditions.

Bird communities in the Southwest face a variety of threats. Changes in vegetation structure and insect abundance brought on by climate change may disrupt habitat use and the timing of migration. Other kinds of habitat degradation result from the spread of invasive exotic plants, land-use practices such as livestock grazing and urban development, as well as large-scale catastrophic fires that have transformed large sections of forest in the wake of wildfire suppression during the 20th century. Diseases such as West Nile virus and avian influenza are additional stressors to birds.

Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine status and trends in composition and abundance of breeding bird communities associated with selected upland and riparian habitats.
  • Improve our understanding of breeding bird habitat relationships by correlating changes in species composition and relative abundance/density with changes in specific habitat variables.
Brewer´s sparrow<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Western meadowlark<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Yellow-rumped warbler<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Bullock's oriole<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Fledgling horned lark<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Lesser goldfinch<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Mountain chickadee<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Loggerhead shrike<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) White-crowned sparrow<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Stellar's jay<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo) Red crossbill<br />(US Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Monitoring Project Status

Bird communities are monitored every three years in specific ecosystems in six SCPN parks. Bird community monitoring in SCPN parks began in 2007. The Habitat-Based Bird Community Monitoring Protocol for the Southern Colorado Plateau Network was published in April 2017.

Project Contacts

Jennifer Holmes, Wildlife Biologist
Northern Arizona University

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Last Updated: February 08, 2018 Contact Webmaster