Breeding bird surveys (BBS) 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 2013, we conducted surveys from May 29 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 3,363 birds from 48 species during those surveys. Bird abundance was less than the 1985-2012 average of 4,880 birds, and the number of species (i.e., species richness) was lower than the 26-year average of 57.
Compared with past surveys, we observed similar patterns of bird abundance among those species that are typically the most numerous. In 2013, the five species that were documented in greatest abundance were western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta, n = 827), horned lark (Eremophila alpestris, n = 792), sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus, n = 564), sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli, n = 218), and Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri, n = 184). During 27 years of breeding bird surveys on the INL Site these species have been the five most abundant 20 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 2013.
Birds observed during the 2013 BBS that are considered species of conservation concern in Idaho included the Franklin’s gull (Larus pipixcan, n = 164), ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis, n = 7), long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus, n = 5), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia, n = 1), grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum, n = 1), and greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, n = 2).
Full 2013 Breeding Bird
Survey Report (pdf format)