About the lab
The Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO) is an academic research and community outreach program of Boise State University, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences. Our mission is to impact human lives and significantly contribute to bird conservation through a unique combination of cooperative research, education, discovery of the natural world, and community engagement.
Featured projects (13)
Every year in late spring and summer, biologists and technicians travel across the mountains, prairies and deserts of the western U.S. to survey birds under the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. The program, coordinated by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, is one of the largest of its kind in North America, stretching across public and private land in many states in the western United States. What the Intermountain Bird Observatory and our partners learn through the IMBCR program informs management decisions and contributes to the big picture for bird and habitat conservation. Data gathered as part of the program are available at no cost through the Rocky Mountain Avian Data Center: http://rmbo.org/v3/avian/Home.aspx. Strengths of the IMBCR program include a statistically rigorous design based on random sampling, a broad network of partners that support the program and its reach across many states and boundary lines, including public and private lands. Partners include (but are not limited to) the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, state wildlife agencies and organizations such as the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, the University of Montana Avian Science Center and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. Christian Meny supervises Montana's portion of the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. Jessica Pollock, Jeremy Halka, and Tempe Regan manage the program in Idaho and Utah.
Population assessment of Short-eared Owls in the Western United States - 1) Establish population size estimate for use in State Wildlife Action Plans and to asses population trends over time; 2) Identify general habitat associations and hot spots for Short-eared Owls in the West; 3) Identify Short-eared Owl breeding distribution and fluctuations in breeding densities.
Since 1999 the Intermountain Bird Observatory has managed a migratory owl banding project at Lucky Peak. This project focuses on Flammulated Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls. We band more than 500 owls each year. This long-term dataset has enabled us to monitor owl population sizes, phenology, body condition, and specific biology of the migrating owls.
Since 1997 the Intermountain Bird Observatory has managed a migratory songbird banding project at Lucky Peak. We typically band more than 5000 songbirds per year. This long-term dataset has enabled us to monitor songbird population sizes, phenology, body condition, and specific biology of the migrating birds.
Since 1993 the Intermountain Bird Observatory has implemented a standardized migration count of raptors and banded migrating raptors at two trap stations - Lucky Peak and Boise Peak - along the Boise Ridge. This long-term dataset has enabled us to monitor raptor population sizes, phenology, body condition, and specific biology of migrating raptors.
Featured research (20)
Increased urbanization and supplementary feeding are implicated in driving the expansion of the range of the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna). In many areas this range expansion has been well described, but the recent expansion of the northeastern limit of the nonbreeding distribution, in winter in Idaho, has not yet been summarized. Using data from the Idaho Bird Records Committee database and www.eBird.org from 1976 through 2020, we collated records for Idaho and supplemented them with data from a community-science program of monitoring by homeowners. Our additional effort to solicit records from the community shows that database records and feeder observations alone underestimate the number of individuals present in the state. Through banding and color-marking of 58 individual hummingbirds at private residences, we documented six instances of Anna’s Hummingbirds returning to a site in successive winters, found a roughly even sex ratio, and found a ratio of adults to juveniles of about 3:1. Anna’s Hummingbird may now be a sparse year-round resident in parts of Idaho.
Illegal killing of nongame wildlife is a global yet poorly documented problem. The prevalence and ecological consequences of illegal killing are often underestimated or completely unknown. We review the practice of legal recreational shooting and present data gathered from telemetry, surveys, and observations on its association with illegal killing of wildlife (birds and snakes) within conservation areas in Idaho, USA. In total, 33% of telemetered long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) and 59% of other bird carcasses found with known cause of death (or 32% of total) were illegally shot. Analysis of spatial distributions of illegal and legal shooting is consistent with birds being shot illegally in the course of otherwise legal recreational shooting, but snakes being intentionally sought out and targeted elsewhere, in locations where they congregate. Preliminary public surveys indicate that most recreational shooters find abhorrent the practice of illegal killing of wildlife. Viewed through this lens, our data may imply only a small fraction of recreational shooters is responsible for this activity. This study highlights a poorly known conservation problem that could have broad implications for some species and populations of wildlife.
Telomere length dynamics are an established biomarker of health and aging in animals. The study of telomeres in numerous species has been facilitated by methods to measure telomere length by real‐time quantitative PCR (qPCR). In this method, telomere length is determined by quantifying the amount of telomeric DNA repeats in a sample and normalizing this to the total amount of genomic DNA. This normalization requires the development of genomic reference primers suitable for qPCR, which remains challenging in non‐model organism with genomes that have not been sequenced. Here we report reference primers that can be used in qPCR to measure telomere lengths in any vertebrate species. We designed primer pairs to amplify genetic elements that are highly conserved between evolutionarily distant taxa and tested them in species that span the vertebrate tree of life. We report five primer pairs that meet the specificity and reproducibility standards of qPCR. In addition, we demonstrate an approach to choose the best primers for a given species by testing the primers on multiple individuals within a species and then applying an established computational tool. These reference primers can facilitate qPCR‐based telomere length measurements in any vertebrate species of ecological or economic interest.
Between 14 May and 11 July 2019, the Intermountain Bird Observatory staff conducted landbird surveys throughout Montana as part of the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program coordinated by the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and partners. Funding for the 2019 IMBCR effort in Montana came from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). IBO technicians completed a total of 161 IMBCR surveys in 30 strata across Montana. We completed 104 surveys in USFS Region 1 National Forest strata, 36 surveys in BLM strata, and 21 surveys in the All Other/Tribal (Private) and USFWS lands strata. IBO technicians completed a total of 1,768 avian point-counts, with a total of 197 bird species detected across Montana portions of three Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs), including BCR10 (Northern Rockies), BCR11 (Prairie Potholes), and BCR17 (Badlands and Prairies). Additionally, we completed 29 surveys for the NFWF Northern Great Plains- Effectiveness Bird Monitoring project in eastern Montana.