Yellowstone’s Songbird Study

Oct 20

Yellowstone’s Songbird Study

Although Yellowstone National Park is known for its charismatic mammals and impressive birds like eagles, osprey, and swans, relatively little is known about its substantial songbird populations. These small but striking park inhabitants include warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, and many other species.

In the spring of 2018, biologists established a songbird banding station in a willow-lined corridor in the park’s northern range. Through the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) protocol, researchers gathered information on songbird abundance, diversity, productivity, survival, and more.

There are 285 documented species of birds in Yellowstone, the majority of which are songbirds and woodpeckers. During the breading season, June through early August, biologists captured 175 individual birds belonging to at least 27 different species. In late summer and early fall, they banded 117 of 25 species (32 unique species in total). The most frequently captured birds at the Yellowstone banding station during the 2018 breeding season were yellow warblers and warbling vireos and then the Wilson’s warbler during fall migration.

Park researchers will continue banding station efforts in 2019 for continued demographic data collection. This demographic data, including both reproduction and, through the recapture of previously banded birds, survival, will supplement the data from ongoing point count surveys and provide a baseline from which to compare future songbird population trends. This dataset is also expected to be useful in highlighting potential patterns of concern as climate change affects breeding, migration, and wintering habitats.

Yellowstone Forever was proud to play a part in supporting this first year of the Song Bird Tagging Station project. Click here to learn more about the myriad of wildlife research projects that Yellowstone Forever continues to fund. Take a look at some members of the park’s songbird population below. Find out more about birds in Yellowstone.

Western Meadowlark | NPS / Neal Herbert


Cedar Waxwing | NPS / Jacob W. Frank


Mountain Chickadee | YF / Matt Ludin


Hammonds Flycatcher | NPS / Jacob W. Frank


American Robin | YF / Matt Ludin


Brown-headed Cowbird | YF / Matt Ludin


White-crowned Sparrow | NPS / Jim Peaco


Green-tailed Towhee | NPS / Jacob W. Frank


Yellow-rumped Warbler | NPS / Jacob W. Frank


Western Tanager | NPS / Jacob W. Frank