United States Department of Agriculture
Forest Service
Pacific Southwest Research Station

General Technical Report


Pacific Southwest Research Station
Forest Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Albany, California
Mailing address:
PO Box 245, Berkeley CA 94701-0245
(510) 559-6300


May 1993


Ralph, C. John; Geupel, Geoffrey R.; Pyle, Peter; Martin, Thomas E.; DeSante, David F. 1993.
Handbook of field methods for monitoring landbirds. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-144-www. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 41 p.

This handbook is a compilation of methods that can be used to assay population size, demographics, and status of many species of birds occurring in a wide variety of habitats. The handbook will prove useful to field biologists, managers, and scientists anywhere in the New World from the arctic through the tropics. The methods include four types of censuses for determining population size and trends, mist-netting and nest searches to determine demographic parameters, and other methods that will be useful in operating a monitoring station, including habitat and weather observations, and suggestions for training personnel and possibilities for detailed studies. Suggestions of specific methods and data forms are included.

Retrieval terms:: bird populations, census, mist-nets, monitoring, nesting birds


The late L. Richard Mewaldt was the first among equals in setting high standards and maintenance of accurate records. His contributions are detailed by Ralph (1992). We take great pleasure in dedicating this handbook to him.

  This handbook is a direct outgrowth of the landbird program started more than 25 years ago at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory to monitor landbird populations in coastal California, and much of this handbook is the result of the methods developed and adapted there. Over this period, many people contributed to the development of this landbird monitoring program.

  The handbook benefitted greatly from discussions and correspondence by Bruce Bingham, Grant Ballard, Danny Bystrak, Barbara Carlson, Brenda Dale, Sam Droege, John Faaborg, Kevin J. Gutzwiller, Denise Hardesty, Kimberly Hollinger, Bill Howe, David W. Johnston, Stephanie Jones, Cherry Keller, Kathy Klimkiewicz, Rolf R. Koford, Karin Kozie, Borja Milá, Sherri Miller, Michael Morrison, Barry R. Noon, Nadav Nur, Raymond J. O’Connor, Will Peach, Carol Pearson Ralph, Martin Raphael, Dan Reinking, Christopher C. Rimmer, Sharon Ritter, John T. Rotenberry, John R. Sauer, Tom Sherry, Sue Sniado, John Tautin, Jared Verner, Dennis Vroman, George E. Wallace, Dan Welsh, and Joseph M. Wunderle, Jr.

The Authors:

C. John Ralph is a Research Biologist at the Station’s Redwood Sciences Laboratory, 1700 Bayview Drive, Arcata, Calif. 95521. Geoffrey G. Geupel and Peter Pyle are Director of Terrestrial Research Programs and Farallon Biologist, respectively, at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in Stinson Beach, Calif. Thomas E. Martin is Assistant Unit Leader—Wildlife at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. David F. DeSante is Executive Director at the Institute for Bird Populations in Point Reyes Station, Calif.

The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for Federal Leadership in forestry. It carries out this role through four main activities:

  • Protection and management of resources on 191 million acres of National Forest System lands
  • Cooperation with State and local governments, forest industries, and private landowners to help protect and manage non-Federal forest and associated range and watershed lands
  • Participation with other agencies in human resource and community assistance programs to improve living conditions in rural areas
  • Research on all aspects of forestry, rangeland management, and forest resources utilization.

The Pacific Southwest Research Station

  • Represents the research branch of the Forest Service in California, Hawaii, American Samoa, and the western Pacific.

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Front Matter

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7