The Landbird Monitoring Protocol for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midwest and Northeast Regions (2008)


This protocol was designed as an all purpose way to monitor breeding landbirds that allows estimation of detection probabilities via a time-removal method.The goal was to promote the use of compatible field sampling methods among land managers in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. and facilitate interagency habitat conservation and monitoring in the future. The protocol was developed in cooperation with the National Park Service, Great Lakes Network and Northeast Temperate Network, and the Northeast Coordinated Bird Monitoring project. The protocol evolved from a passerine monitoring protocol used by the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies in Alaska since 2004. The authors welcome use of the protocol by other FWS Regions and partners, as appropriate for their bird monitoring objectives (Knutson et al., 2008).


The protocol includes an Introduction and a set of 11 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and adheres to national standards of protocol content and organization. The Protocol Introduction describes the history and need for the protocol and summarizes the basic elements of objectives, sampling design, field methods, training, data management, analysis, and reporting. The SOPs provide more detail and specific instructions for implementing the protocol.  The centralized, online Point Count Database ( is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey and is available for archiving the data to prevent loss and promote data sharing (Knutson et al., 2008). 

This protocol has been extensively tested and reviewed, and it allows for analysis of detection probabilities using time‐removal methods (Farnsworth et al.  2002; Farnsworth et al. 2005) and distance methods (Buckland et al. 1993), although the distance analysis is limited by pooling observations into distance bands. Data collected can be analyzed by various tools such as unmarked (, Presence ( and abundanceR ( Tools are also available for converting the data into GIS data layers. 


The protocol is relatively new and has not yet been widely implemented in the Southeast. While affordable to monitor relatively small management units, this protocol requires substantial effort and costs to implement regionally.

Examples of use

The Landbird Monitoring Protocol is being used by National Wildlife Refuge biologists in the Midwest and Northeast. It is also being considered for use throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Inventory and Monitoring Network. 

The NPS Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network has adapted the Knutson protocol and rolled out a landbird monitoring protocol, found here:

The NPS Northeast Temperate Network similarly adapted the Knutson protocol; their protocol is found here:

For more information