Click below to watch how we band birds with mist nets

(video from a different study site!)


Explore Other Palomarin Data:

Want to know more?

Reach out to the Palomarin team:

Kristen Dybala, Ph.D.
Principal Ecologist & Palomarin Program Director
Email: kdybala [AT]

How Are the Birds Doing?

Wrentit, one of the Palomarin study species 

This question is frequently asked by those who care about birds — whether they are a scientist, a birder, or simply a nature lover — and answering it is the key first step to effective bird conservation. Operating year-round since 1966, the Palomarin Field Station provides a unique long-term perspective on West Coast bird populations.

Fewer birds at Palomarin

One way to measure the abundance of the local bird community is the number of birds captured as part of our long-term mist-netting and banding study. The bird community changes with the seasons as migrants come and go, so we examine total capture rates of individual birds during each season and overall in each year. Capture rates have declined overall, and especially during the fall season.

Select lines at top right to view capture rates by season.

Annual capture rates at the Palomarin Field Station, 1979–2018. Note: Annual totals are calculated March through February of the following calendar year, to keep an entire winter season together.


Why is tracking bird populations important for bird conservation?

Our declining capture rates mirror the continent-wide pattern of declining bird populations across North America, with an estimated 3 billion fewer birds since 1970. In particular, the decline in captures during the fall suggests a reduced number of migratory birds passing through Palomarin on fall migration. By examining long-term variation in capture rates, we can identify individual species that are declining rapidly and determine where and when conservation attention is needed. These declines likely reflect a combination of habitat loss and degradation along migration routes, the additional impacts of climate change on their ability to raise young and survive each year, and local habitat changes that might make Palomarin more or less suitable for individual species.

Although we study the entire community of birds at Palomarin, we pay particular attention to a suite of focal species to understand how they are doing and what is driving any changes over time. Select a species below to see how annual capture rates of our focal species are changing over time and what this means.

Year-Round Residents

Present at Palo all year, these bird species often maintain their territories even during the nonbreeding season. Changes in the capture rates of these species are most likely to reflect changes to the local habitat and climate. While most of these populations are relatively stable, we have seen declines in Nuttall’s White-crowned Sparrows and Song Sparrows, thought to be related to the local habitat changes.

Further research into the specific migration routes of our local populations of these species would provide additional insights into what is producing the patterns we see at Palomarin and how vulnerable these populations are to changes in habitat and climate.

How did we collect these data?

Former Point Blue intern Francoise Benjamin holding a newly banded woodpecker at the Palomarin Field Station.


Since 1966, we have been mist-netting and banding birds at the Palomarin Field Station year-round. All of the birds we capture are carefully recorded and given uniquely-numbered bands provided by the U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory. All of these data are collected by staff, volunteers, and especially the hundreds of interns who have trained at Palomarin over the years.

For more information on how we carefully capture and band birds to collect this valuable data, please watch our video: Bird-banding and Mist-netting with Point Blue

Plan your visit!

We welcome visitors to the Palomarin Field Station! We are located at the south end of the Point Reyes National Seashore, a hotspot for avian biodiversity with nearly 490 bird species recorded — the greatest number of any national park! Visitors are welcome to explore our Nature Center, take a walk down to Fern Canyon along our Nature Trail, and join our scientists for a banding demonstration to learn how we collect this important data. Check here for more information about how to check our current banding schedule and schedule a group visit.

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