Waterbird and Habitat Monitoring

IWMM recognizes that successful waterbird conservation requires integrated objectives, management, and monitoring across local, regional and flyway scales. Moreover, targeted monitoring must inform and support the decisions made at these scales. Therefore, an essential element of IWMM is a monitoring component that enables managers to:

  • Standardize waterbird counts and habitat monitoring.
  • Rapidly assess local habitat conditions and quantify use of wetlands by waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds during non-breeding periods.
  • Aggregate waterbird and habitat data collected at the local scale for descriptive summary and or analyses at larger scales.
  • Simultaneously track management actions in order to evaluate whether management objectives are being met at sites being managed.
  • Adaptively manage resources and adjust management actions as more information about waterbird responses to specific actions becomes available, and or to address emerging threats.

IWMM chose to focus monitoring efforts on waterbirds during the non-breeding period because information during this period was limited but crucial for the development of a full-life cycle conservation approach. The waterbird guilds selected–waders, shorebirds and waterfowl–were chosen because many National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lands were purchased to provide habitat for these species. Additionally, species in these guilds are commonly managed for on wetlands. Currently, our monitoring protocol employs survey techniques that involve whole-wetland visual assessments of habitat conditions and counts of waterbirds conducted from the wetland perimeter. However, if managers want to record observations of waterbird species outside of these guilds, they can also be tracked through the IWMM database. Our waterbird species list includes a wide array of waterbirds, including loons, grebes, cormorants, anhinga, pelicans, gulls, terns, skimmers, rails, gallinules and coots (see Common names and 4-letter codes).

In January 2015, the National Inventory and Monitoring Branch of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) approved the IWMM monitoring protocol as a National Protocol Framework for the Inventory and Monitoring of Nonbreeding Waterbirds and their Habitats. The purpose of the National Protocol Framework is to guide use of the monitoring component by cooperators within the NWRS. This framework enables development of site-specific protocols that are compliant with the NWRS recently updated inventory and monitoring policy. For partners with similar management objectives and information needs, IWMM encourages use of the framework to develop site-specific guidance for their waterbird and habitat condition surveys.

For more information about using the IWMM monitoring protocol:

Linda Wires, IWMM National Project Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5600 American Blvd West
Bloomington, MN 55427

Mindy Rice, Spatial Ecologist
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
1201 Oakridge Drive, Suite 320
Fort Collins, CO 80525

Midwest Region

Brian Loges
Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge
HC 82 Box 107 Brussels, IL

Northeast Region

Linda Ziemba
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
3395 US Route 20 East
Seneca Falls, NY 13148-9423

Southeast Region

John Stanton
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
North Carolina Migratory Bird Field Office
155 L.A. Keiser Drive Suite A
Columbia, NC 27925

Mountain Prairie Region

Mick Hanan
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lake Andes NWR Complex
38672 291st St.
Lake Andes, SD 57356

Southwest Region

Bill Johnson
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
NWRS-Division of Biological Services
Box 60906 WTAMU
Canyon, TX 79016

Paige Schmidt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Zone Biologist
9014 E. 21st Street
Tulsa, OK 74129