Project goal: Gather important scientific data on migratory and year-round birds in Yosemite while engaging park visitors of all ages in wildlife conservation.

Why this work matters: According to a study released in 2019, nearly 3 billion birds have vanished from the U.S. and Canada since 1970, with astounding losses among common species, such as warblers, finches and sparrows.

Faced with that staggering statistic, the opportunity to study and protect birds — and to encourage more people to appreciate and advocate for avian life — takes on intense urgency. Birds play vital roles in diverse ecosystems, and their health reflects the health of the broader environment. Studying trends in bird populations can help scientists understand what’s happening to birds now, and how birds might be affected by, and protected from, future challenges driven by climate change, habitat loss and other factors. 

Yosemite’s venerated bird-research program, the longest-running MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) effort in North America, marks its 31st consecutive year in 2020. Through the park’s MAPS program, experienced biologists work with early-career scientists to collect data on birds at Gin Flat, Crane Flat, Hodgdon Meadow, White Wolf, Big Meadow and Ackerson Meadow.

In 2020, in addition to studying thousands of individual birds, the Yosemite MAPS team will examine how climate change is affecting birds’ breeding, collect statistics to inform habitat restoration in Ackerson Meadow, and analyze the migration patterns of black-headed grosbeaks and hermit warblers. They’ll also work to encourage people outside the avian-research world to get involved in bird conservation, by offering hands-on bird-banding demonstrations for hundreds of park staff, students and visitors.  

How your support helps: Your gifts will propel an important research program that adds to the global understanding of bird populations, trains young biologists and inspires citizen scientists, and can help shape efforts to protect birds within and outside the park.

Partnering with Yosemite National Park and Institute for Bird Populations.

Sarah Stock

Wildlife Ecologist, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"Yosemite hosts the first and longest-running Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) songbird banding program in North America. The MAPS program has provided high-quality outreach to hundreds of park visitors, produced annual information about bird populations for park managers, and yielded seven peer-reviewed scientific papers about Yosemite's birds."