To Save a Mockingbird: Monitoring Oak Habitats for Bird Conservation

A Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from 2011 Landsat 5 imagery for the Central Klamath Basin.

Team Location: Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Ryan S. Anderson (University of Wyoming)
Adam Chlus (University of Connecticut)
Thomas Mathis (University of California Davis)
Erika Edgar (University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Tanvi Gambhir (Salinas High School)

Nicole Athearn (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Cindy Schmidt (Bay Area Environmental Research Institute; DEVELOP National Program)


Oak habitats in the Pacific Northwest have decreased significantly under past land management practices. In turn, concern for bird species that depend on these habitats has increased as agricultural and urban development, fire suppression strategies, and invasive species encroachment have led to declines in oak extent. The richness and abundance of birds may be closely related to the health and diversity of these declining habitats. To identify past and present land cover distributions and understand the relation between oak habitat and bird abundance, this project used Landsat 8 imagery alongside topographic, ground survey, and bird count data. A land cover map for 2013 was produced using image segmentation and machine learning algorithms which segment the landscape and classify cover types. This land cover map was used in combination with a change detection analysis to assess the relation between bird abundance and disturbance, as well as oak patch size and connectivity. It is found that trends in oak habitat loss result in a nonlinear response in the abundance of specific bird species, which indicates that some species may have a threshold response to changing density of oak habitat. Project results will be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Klamath Bird Observatory to meet conservation objectives.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.