Breeding Bird Survey Results 2012



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 2012, we conducted surveys from June 4 to July 3 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 2,612 birds from 47 species during those surveys. Bird abundance was less than the 1985-2011 average of 4,971 birds, and the number of species (i.e., species richness) was lower than the 25-year average of 58.


Burrowing Owl

         Burrowing Owl

Compared with past surveys, we observed similar patterns of bird abundance among those species that are typically the most numerous. In 2012, the five species that were documented in greatest abundance were horned lark (Eremophila alpestris, n = 897), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta, n = 621), sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus, n = 298), Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri, n = 172), and sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli, n = 161). During 26 years of breeding bird surveys on the INL Site these species have been the five most abundant 19 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 four 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 2012. One species was observed during the surveys that had been recorded in ≤ 6 of the past 26 years. This species was the Canada goose (Branta canadensis).


Species observed during the 2012 BBS that are considered species of conservation concern in Idaho included the Franklin’s gull (Larus pipixcan, n = 15), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia, n = 1), ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis, n = 7), and greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, n = 4).

Full 2012 Breeding Bird Survey Report (pdf format)