Breeding bird surveys (BBSs) have been conducted annually since 1985 (no surveys were conducted in 1992 and 1993) to monitor bird populations on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site. In 2011, we conducted surveys from June 9 to June 29 along 13 established routes, five of which are part of a nationwide survey administered by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and eight of which boarder INL Site facilities. We documented 3,171 birds from 48 species during these surveys. Bird abundance was less than the 1985-2011 average of 4,970 birds, and the number of species (i.e., species richness) was lower than the 25-year average of 58.
Compared with past surveys, we observed similar patterns of bird abundance among those species that are typically the most numerous. In 2011, the six species that were documented in greatest abundance were horned lark (Eremophila alpestris, n = 838), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta, n = 622), Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri, n = 449), sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus, n = 340), sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli, n = 237), and Franklin’s gull (Larus pipixcan, n = 147). During 25 years of breeding bird surveys on the INL Site, with the exception of the Franklin’s gull, these species have been the five most abundant 18 times, and in the remaining seven years they were among the six most abundant species. Considering reported declines in populations of sagebrush-obligate species throughout the intermountain west, this trend indicates that the quality of sagebrush-steppe habitat on the INL Site remains stable.
Although three new species were added in the past three years to the list of birds that have been observed at least once during BBS on the INL Site, no observations of new species were made in 2011. One species was observed during the surveys that had been recorded in ≤ 6 of the past 25 years. This species was the house wren (Troglodytes aedon).
Species observed during the 2011 BBS that are considered imperiled or critically imperiled in Idaho included the Franklin’s gull (n = 147), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia, n = 3), and greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, n = 3). .
Full 2011 Breeding Bird
Survey Report (pdf format)