Conservation

Citizen Science Landbird Monitoring Program

Photo: Lane Richter
Conservation

Citizen Science Landbird Monitoring Program

The Audubon Center at Riverlands has partnered with the Rivers Project Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to develop and implement a citizen science landbird monitoring program for bottomland forests on the Mississippi River, in the Great Rivers Confluence Region. This project will result in valuable information on breeding bird diversity in these forested floodplains. 

In the Midwest, some of the largest tracts of forest are found along major rivers such as the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and these forests have the capacity to support a great diversity of birds and other wildlife. Near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi River, the Rivers Project Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alone manages close to 50,000 acres of public lands, much of which is bottomland forest.

The Mississippi River is a globally significant migratory flyway that provides nesting, resting and feeding habitat for 60% of the migratory bird species in North America, and 40% of North American waterfowl. In all, over 300 species of birds migrate along the Mississippi Flyway.  Many species are relatively easy to identify and detect, and the presence and relative abundance of these birds, like the Prothonotary Warbler, may be used to help describe the overall health of bottomland forest ecosystems.

During the current pilot year of the project, a scientific protocol was developed in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and was tested with 10 trained citizen scientists.   The protocol was evaluated on Dresser Island and West Alton Island during the month of June. Participants recorded all birds seen or heard at predetermined sampling points for 18 minutes per site. Some of the species that were observed included Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Prothonotary Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Citizen scientists’ feedback from this pilot program will help in developing a final protocol that is sustainable and that can be implemented across the bottomland habitats managed by the Rivers Project Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Next year, Audubon will offer enhanced training and field trials for citizen scientists who are interested in helping with the project, and subsequently gather baseline data for bottomland forest birds in the region. The study area will include river islands from Maple Island in the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Missouri to Cuivre Island near Winfield, Missouri. Results of the study will be used by the Corps to inform land management for increased bird diversity and to protect federal trust species.

For more information or ways to be involved with the project please contact Jean Favara at jfavara@audubon.org.

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