Birds/Bats/Pollinators Team

Contact Information

Volunteers on this team: 15

Maximum Volunteers: There is currently no cap set on the number of volunteers needed by this team.

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Katherine Cousins, Mitigation Staff Biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Betsy Hull, Natural Resource Specialist, United States Army Corps of Engineers

Carrie Hugo, Wildlife Biologist, Bureau of Land Management

Jay Carlisle, Research Director, Idaho Bird Observatory/Boise State University


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Background:  A large number of birds, some of which are permanent residents, are found in and around Lake Pend Oreille.  The area is a major stopover location for migratory waterfowl in both spring and fall.  Numerous species of birds, including upland game and birds of prey, nest near the lakeshore.  During the past century birds have represented the primary focus of a majority of ecological and evolutionary research efforts, providing critical insights into our current understanding of natural processes at the individual, population, and community levels (Wiens 1989).  This document describes a study design for inventorying and monitoring of avian species throughout the delta project area.  A mixture of professionals, citizen scientists, and volunteers will collect data to help determine:  1) What species are present during the breeding season?  2)  How does species composition change throughout the year? And 3) How does species composition and abundance change through time?   Additionally, data should be obtained on species’ distribution, habitat associations, and relative abundance.


Objectives:  The objectives of the proposed effort include:

  1. Conduct an extensive avian survey to determine base-line numbers for short and long-term assessment of all bird species, including special status species protection and preservation.
  2. Analyze and summarize data for diversity of species and identification of species of conservation need.  Analysis of presence and absence of species as they relate to community populations will also be made.
  3. Analyze and identify sensitive habitats containing species of conservation concern.
  4. Establish a spatially referenced database of special status species communities (compatible with ArchGIS or ArcMap).


Sampling Methods:  A combination of terrestrial and open water survey methods will be performed.


Point count surveys are one of the most common survey methods for terrestrial bird communities.  The basic procedure establishes stations either randomly or systematically throughout the area of interest.  Stations will be possibly up to 400 meters (m) apart to minimize double-counting of birds among stations and to maintain independence of data collected at each station.  Point-counts are typically conducted as ‘fixed radius’ (e.g., all birds < 50 m are recorded) and survey length can be from 5 to 10 minutes at each stationCounts should not be conducted during periods of rain or strong winds (> 15-20 mph).  Professional ornithologists may be aided by citizen scientists and volunteers for these surveys.

The following steps should be followed (Guilfoyle and Fischer 2007):

  1. Approach the sampling point, noting any birds within 50 m of the counting station that are flushed, fly away, or retreat.  These birds are marked on the data sheet at the appropriate distance from the point.  All sampling points’ GPS coordinates will be recorded.
  2. Record wind and sky conditions, date, time, and observer.
  3. Start count as soon as possible.
  4. Record each bird seen or heard, spending part of the time facing in each cardinal direction to better detect all birds.
  5. Record the estimated distance to each bird from the survey point using a laser rangefinder.
  6. Mark each bird once, using the mapped location to judge whether subsequent songs were from new or already mapped individuals.  All “flyovers” are recorded separately.
  7. Record birds observed/heard during the first 3 min, and next 2-min intervals separately.
  8. Do not count any birds believed to have been counted at previous stations.

At the end of each count, recordings of bird detection are stopped.  Do not record any new birds seen or heard after the sampling period was over (incidental observations can be recorded, but should not be entered or included in analyses).

Move to next station.

Area searches can be conducted by volunteers with data upload to eBird online.  The goal with these area searches will be to enhance data collected during the breeding season point counts by gathering data at intervals throughout the year.  Our hope will be to recruit active birders to volunteer to conduct informal areas searches and upload their observations to eBird.  This will generate more complete lists of bird use throughout the annual cycle in each area. It will also provide an opportunity for public involvement and “ownership” of the work occurring within the Delta.

Area searches are typically conducted by surveying or walking through an area using a consistent pace.  The surveyor is not limited to staying at a point or walking a specific trail, but is free to roam through the area and to detect as many bird species and individuals as possible.  This method is useful for nest searches and is generally used only to obtain a species list and presence/absence data.  We would aim to have area searches conducted at two month intervals and, as long as effort is consistent among different areas, statistical comparisons are possible for species richness and abundance.

Open water surveys:

Line transect or drift line transect surveys will be performed by professional ornithologists aided by citizen scientists and volunteers in the open waters of Lake Pend Oreille.  Transects will be recorded via GPS coordinates.  Transects may be as small as 100 m or may be several hundred meters in length.  Like point-count surveys, birds are typically placed into various distance categories on either side of the observer.  When assessing detectability indices or density, the distance to each bird detected is often estimated or measured directly (typically using a range finder), rather than placed into distance categories.

Locations of avian point count survey stations and aquatic bird survey transects for bird surveys in the Clark Fork River Delta in June 2014.

Locations of avian point count survey stations and aquatic bird survey transects for bird surveys in the Clark Fork River Delta in June 2014.

Timeline:  The timeline for this monitoring effort is as follows:

  • Nesting season point count survey by professionals May 25 – July 5,2014.
  • Establishment and 1st data recording of aquatic line transects by professionals June, 2014.
  • Area searches by volunteers with reporting to ebird on line August, October, December 2014.
  • February, April, June 2015.  These surveys can be continued ad inifitum.

Additional aquatic line transects during important seasons, possibly including fall migration, winter, and spring migration.



Guilfoyle, M. P. and R. A. Fischer.  2007.  Implementing Avian Inventory and Monitoring Efforts on Corps of Engineers Project Lands.  ERDC TN-EMRRP-SI-32.

Wiens, J. A.  1989.  The ecology of bird communities:  Volume I:  Foundations and patterns.  New York:  Cambridge University Press.


Results from Bird Surveys in the Clark Fork River Delta in June 2014

From June 5th to June 9th we conducted standardized bird surveys in the Clark Fork River Delta and we briefly summarize results here.  We conducted standardized point count surveys at 43 point count stations spread across six distinct survey areas and also established and surveyed three aquatic bird transects in Area 3.  We distributed survey points such that at least 250 meters separated any two adjacent stations in order to saturate the survey areas with survey points but also minimize counting the same individual birds multiple times.  Thus, we primarily present the number of birds detected within 125 meters of each survey station but also show numbers for all detections.

In the five days of survey work, we detected a total of 85 species including a diversity of riparian associated birds (Table 1).  The ten most abundant landbird species (from point count surveys; includes all individuals detected within 125 meters of each survey station; Table 1) were: Tree Swallow (n=80), Common Yellowthroat (71), Yellow Warbler (55), Cedar Waxwing (46), American Redstart (39), Willow Flycatcher (37), Song Sparrow (37), Red-eyed Vireo (22), Gray Catbird (22), and Brown-headed Cowbird (20).  The six most abundant waterbird species (from aquatic transects; Table 2) were: Mallard (67), Canada Goose (13), California Gull (10), Wood Duck (8), Caspian Tern (8), and Ring-billed Gull (8); numerous additional individuals and species were detected during point count surveys.

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