Monitoring Bird Migration

Migration Monitoring

A federal band on a bird's leg.

A federal band on a bird’s leg.

The original impetus for the formation of MRBO was the need to identify the species and numbers of birds that use the Missouri River corridor as stopover habitat during migration. For five years (2009 – 2013) we operated migration monitoring stations at Grand Pass Conservation Area and Van Meter State Park, where we studied passerines and shorebirds.

Since 2013, the focus of our migration monitoring has been in grassland habitats, where we now operate spring and fall migration stations. (Read the 2015 and 2016 reports).  Spring monitoring continues to involve banding stations, while fall monitoring consists exclusively of line-transect surveys.  While many aspects of migration remain a mystery, there is less known about the habitat use and migration pathways of prairie-obligate birds than any other guild.  

By the very nature of bird migration, the journey is perilous and tests the limits of endurance. Before migration, birds are capable of storing up to 50% of their body weight in lipids. They rely upon stopover sites to rebuild these reserves. Stopover habitat is increasingly becoming important for many bird populations in decline due to habitat alteration on wintering grounds and fragmentation throughout their ranges.

In order for land managers to make sound decisions considering multiple landscape scales and diverse taxa, consistent and standardized monitoring efforts throughout species’ life history cycles are needed. Resulting information can inform decisions based on migration timing of various avian species, condition of birds in migration, as well as habitat associations of stopover migrants.