Hundreds of songbird species thrive in and depend on Yosemite’s meadows, from black-headed grosbeaks to vibrant western tanagers to spectacled Cassin’s vireos. The birds’ vulnerability to environmental changes makes them key indicators of ecosystem health in Yosemite and beyond.

Since 1990, Yosemite’s songbird-banding program has been collecting data on the park’s resident and migratory avian species, with much of that work funded by Conservancy donors. The songbird studies, among the longest-running in the country, provide vital information about how environmental factors, including drought and decreased snowpack, affect sensitive species.

In 2016, scientists recorded data on more than 2,000 individual songbirds captured in park meadows. In Hodgdon Meadow, where researchers are paying careful attention to how habitat and bird demographics have been affected by the 2013 Rim Fire, the team captured a black-headed grosbeak bearing a tiny GPS “backpack” — the device, which the team had placed on the bird two years earlier, allows scientists to study the journey of this molt-migrant species.

As part of this grant-funded project, visitors and volunteers experienced science in action during a series of hands-on bird-banding demonstrations, while student interns had the incredible opportunity to work with professional ornithologists and receive one-on-one training in conservation techniques.

Your gifts funded important research to help protect Yosemite’s vibrant songbirds. Thank you for supporting your park!

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park, Institute for Bird Populations and Student Conservation Association.

Want to learn more about the park’s avian species? Check out Yosemite Nature Notes: Birdsongs.


Sarah Stock

Wildlife Biologist, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

This legacy songbird program provides an outreach and management opportunity critical for understanding, restoring, and conserving Yosemite’s songbirds and the meadow habitats on which they depend, for future generations. Yosemite’s bird banding stations are some of the oldest in the country and have operated continuously since 1990, thanks in large part to Yosemite Conservancy.