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Individual Highlight

Long-term Monitoring Reveals Bird Population Dynamics in the South

Photo of 1) Biologist conducting bird monitoring
2) Eastern towhee1) Biologist conducting bird monitoring 2) Eastern towheeSnapshot : The USDA Forest Service monitors birds because of interest in bird conservation, and many birds are important management indicator species or are threatened, endangered, or sensitive species. Scientists analyzed 26 years of bird monitoring data from southern national forests to determine the status of birds on these forests to help guide land management planning.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Thompson, Frank R. 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2020
Highlight ID : 1698


The USDA Forest Service has a legal mandate to maintain species and community diversity on National Forest System lands and uses monitoring to determine whether national forests are meeting this goal. The Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service implemented a regionwide program to monitor abundances of land birds across 15 national forest units beginning in 1992. Scientists with the Northern Research Station and University of Missouri worked with the Region to analyze monitoring data spanning 1992-2017 to assess population trends and habitat associations of birds. Scientists used advanced statistical models to estimate abundances and trends but presented easy to interpret graphical results so managers and planners could quickly assess the status of individual species on a national forest. Biologists completed 82,367 bird counts and detected 992,287 birds. Scientists then determined population trends for a total of 152 species and between 58 and 117 species per national forest. Seventy-five species had a majority of positive annual trends and 68 species had a majority of negative annual trends across all national forests. This represents the first comprehensive effort to analyze this 26-year dataset, and these results can help inform management and conservation of migrant and resident birds in the Southern Region.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Region 8 USDA Forest Service
  • University of Missouri

Program Areas