Developing techniques to census and monitor American white pelicans and other colonial waterbirds at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota

Science Center Objects

Monitoring colonial waterbirds is essential to detect and to provide insights about changes in waterbird distribution and abundance.  For colonial waterbirds, major population fluctuations often go undetected because surveys are not conducted regularly, inventory methods are inconsistent, or estimates have unknown reliability.  The waterbird colony at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota is one of the largest nesting colonies in the region and has changed dramatically during the past two decades.  The colony has increased both in species composition and overall numbers.  Many of these changes remain unquantified.   Northern Prairie is developing and assessing methods to estimate breeding populations of ground- and shrub-nesting waterbirds at Chase Lake.  The goal is to develop reliable methods for estimating the size of breeding populations for different waterbird species and to provide protocols for monitoring colonial species at Chase Lake NWR.  The methods will be applicable to other waterbird colonies with similar attributes in the region and elsewhere.