Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey

Science Center Objects

Alaska provides breeding habitat for >140 regularly occurring species of landbirds, half of which breed predominantly north of the U.S.–Canada border. The road-based North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) provides some data on population trends in Alaska, but most northern species are inadequately monitored by that continental program because of a paucity of roads. Boreal Partners in Flight developed the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey (ALMS) to monitor breeding populations of landbirds in the vast off-road areas of Alaska and to complement data collected from the roadside BBS.

Return to Terrestrial Ecosystems >> Landbird Research in Alaska >> Boreal Partners in Flight

Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey emblem

Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey emblem, Boreal Partners in Flight. (Public domain.)

ALMS is a statewide cooperative monitoring program in which federal and state agencies conduct standardized point-count surveys of breeding birds and measure associated habitat in off-road areas on public lands, then submit the data to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center for centralized storage and analysis. This program, established in 2003, has contributed to analysis of population trends at regional and continental levels and enables modeling of changes in bird distribution, habitat use, and population size in relation to climate, vegetation, development, and other environmental factors across the landscape.

The primary objective of ALMS is to monitor population trends of northern populations of landbirds using replicated point-count surveys in off-road areas to complement data collected by the roadside BBS. Equally important, however, are similar surveys conducted for inventories or other purposes, which can be incorporated into analyses of distribution, habitat use, and population size (Figure 1). Most ALMS samples consist of a mini-grid of 12–25 points arrayed within a randomly shifted 10 km × 10 km grid across continental Alaska.

Surveys for population trends are conducted biennially, with half of the samples surveyed in alternating years. Samples are stratified by accessibility and cost, and the initial stratum includes areas accessible by foot, vehicle, boat, or fixed-winged aircraft. The initial allocation of samples is concentrated in the Northern Pacific Rainforest and Northwestern Interior Rainforest Bird Conservation Regions, where landbird populations are most diverse and abundant. Additional samples have been allocated to Arctic and Western Alaska, and surveys in the remote Aleutian and Bering Sea islands are conducted by Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge biologists as logistics allow.

The recently updated (Handel et al. 2021) ALMS protocol specifies 10-minute point counts replicated once per breeding season, with bird detections recorded in time and distance intervals so that detection probability can be estimated. Associated data on habitat are collected the first summer point counts are conducted; thereafter, habitat surveys are repeated every 10 years or whenever a major disturbance has occurred. Long-term monitoring will enable analysis of change in bird populations in relation to fire, disease and insect damage, resource development, climate-related change, and other landscape-level disturbances.

ALMS has received broad backing from nine state, federal, and non-governmental agencies, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2005 supporting the program. To find out more about how to participate in ALMS or add sampling sites, please see the additional information included on this site or contact the Program Coordinator.

Map with survey locations related to Bird Conservation Regions in AK

Figure 1. Locations of blocks and routes surveyed as part of the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey (ALMS), North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR) monitoring program in relation to Bird Conservation Regions (US NABCI 2000) within Alaska. Solid markers are blocks and routes regularly surveyed for long-term bird population trends. Open markers show blocks and routes that have been surveyed irregularly or dropped (Other, Inactive). From: Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey: Alaska Regional Protocol Framework for Monitoring Landbirds Using Point Counts
(Public domain.)

Additional information on ALMS


Program coordinator

Colleen Handel
U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center
4210 University Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508


Logo for Boreal Partners in Flight

Logo by Bryce Robinson,