National Park Service

Southern Plains Network (SOPN)

Landbird Monitoring

Burrowing owls at Sand Creek Massacre NHS
Burrowing owls at Sand Creek Massacre NHS

Landbird Monitoring Briefs

Landbird Inventory Reports

Landbird Monitoring Reports

Landbird Monitoring Protocols & Procedures

Cooperator: Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

For more information contact: Robert Bennetts


Songbird communities are good indicators of the health of ecosystems because they respond quickly to changes in resource conditions and there are comparable regional and national datasets. Grassland birds, in particular, respond to management practices such as grazing and fire, as well as landscape level changes. In addition there are more species of birds at SOPN parks then any other vertebrate. If a park has a wide range of bird species, then it is likely that this indicates the health of a wide variety of habitats and the other plant and animal species that depend on them. Long-term trends in the community composition and abundance of breeding bird populations will provide a measure for assessing the ecological integrity and sustainability of prairie, riparian, and pinion-juniper systems.

Network Park Units Where Landbirds Will Be Monitored

  • Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area
  • Fort Larned National Historic Site
  • Fort Union National Monument
  • Lake Meredith NRA & Alibates Flint Quarries NM
  • Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
  • Pecos National Historic Park
  • Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
  • Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Long-term Monitoring

The Southern Plains Network (SOPN) is Partnering with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO) to assess breeding-bird species trends in three different habitats: riparian, pinyon-juniper, and sage-shrubland. During a five-minute count on park transects, a field crew records:

  1. The distance to the bird.
  2. How the bird was detected (visually, aurally).
  3. The sex of the bird.
  4. The bearing of the bird from the recorder.
  5. Habitat information. Ecologists then examine population trends relative to habitat, density, and diversity of species.

SOPN survey plots will contribute to the RMBO's broader, landscape-scale breeding-bird monitoring program, which includes more than 500 plots in 5 states in the Southern Plains.

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Last Updated: April 12, 2017 Contact Webmaster