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Nicolet NF Bird Survey


Between 1987 and 2016, volunteer birding teams recorded at least 173 bird species during the Nicolet National Forest (NNF) Bird Survey and tallied more than 70,000 bird records. In upland and lowland forested habitats, common bird species reported over the years include Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Least Flycatcher, White-throated Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and others. In wetter habitats, such as bogs and lowland shrub habitats, volunteers frequently recorded species such as Common Yellowthroat, Alder Flycatcher, Red-winged Blackbird, and Song Sparrow during field surveys. During some years, if volunteers were lucky, they even found several uncommon to rare species, including many with population declines, such as Boreal Chickadee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Magnolia Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cape May Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Canada Warbler.

Data Archives

Data collected during the NNF Bird Survey are archived and stored at the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity's Data Management Center and are available upon request for certain uses by scientists and land managers. Over the years, data have been used in a variety of ways, such as estimating and modeling forest bird populations, informing forest management decisions, and incorporated into master's thesis projects.

Data Applications
Analysis of Long-term Great Lakes National Forest Bird Data

In collaboration with scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, University of Minnesota Duluth, UW-Superior, and UW-Green Bay, Gerald Niemi from the UM-Duluth and Cofrin Center for Biodiversity's Bob Howe led an effort to summarize forest bird monitoring data collected between 1991 and 2011 in the Nicolet and Chequamegon National Forests in Wisconsin and the Chippewa and Superior National Forests in Minnesota. They published a large U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report in 2016 that represents one of the most comprehensive analyses of North American bird populations.

Like other organisms, wild birds cope with the cumulative effects of habitat degradation, environmental pollution, invasive species, climate change, and other (often un-measurable) threats to environmental quality. The regular presence of certain bird species, therefore, helps us assess the overall ecological health of an area. Erin Giese, along with collaborators Robert Howe, Amy Wolf, Nicholas Miller, and Nicholas Walton, used NNF Bird Survey data and other datasets to develop an Index of Ecological Condition (IEC) for northern mesic forests. This easy-to-use, objective tool allows land managers to use their own census data to evaluate the quality of northern mesic forest habitats.

Chestnut sided Warbler
Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas

Data from the NNF Bird Survey were incorporated into the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (WBBA) I and II Projects. The first WBBA began the spring of 1995 and ended the summer of 2000, while the second WBBA project took place 20 years later between 2015 and 2019. Overview of the WBBA I and accompanying results are hosted by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology's (WSO) website. The WBBA II project data are stored through the Atlas eBird portal along with accompanying materials on WSO's website.

UW-Green Bay Master's Theses

Over the years, more than a dozen UW-Green Bay graduate students in the Environmental Science and Policy program have incorporated NNF Bird Survey data into their master's thesis projects covering topics, such as bird distribution patterns and forest condition.


Scientists have used NNF Bird Survey data to better understand and conserve breeding birds and their habitats. We provide a partial list of published reports, theses, and scholarly articles from a variety of scientists, agency staff, and students who used data from the NNF Bird Survey.