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Bird Habitats

The avian nest box monitoring network is located in northern New Mexico to investigate the health and condition of bird populations that nest in bird houses on the Pajarito plateau.
February 2, 2015
Avian nest box on LANL land

Boxes are placed in the open ponderosa pine forest of the canyons and piñon–juniper woodland on the Pajarito plateau mesas.


  • Environmental Communication & Public Involvement
  • P.O. Box 1663 MS M996
  • Los Alamos, NM 87545
  • (505) 667-0216
  • Email
The monitoring data are used in a population viability analysis that can determine the status of the population and potential impacts of historical LANL releases.

Who nests in our network?

More than two dozen North American bird species prefer to nest in bird houses. At LANL, we provide nestboxes for the following native bird species:

  • Western bluebird (Sialia mexicana) - primary species
  • Ash-throated flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
  • Mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli)
  • House finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)
  • House wrens (Troglodytes aedon)

The main objective of the avian nestbox monitoring network is to determine efficient and sensitive indicators of potential historical LANL releases exposure and environmental stress on cavity-nesting birds.

The project has over 850 nest boxes placed on LANL land.

All adults and nestlings western bluebirds are banded and return band numbers are recorded.

Learn more about the study

The long-term Avian Nestbox Network study has:

  • Completed field and laboratory research on dose-responses to the heavy metal lead, a significant chemical of concern at LANL
  • Specific studies in areas of potential chemical releases in Mortandad and Sandia Canyons
  • Supported exposure assessments of the watershed Canyon Investigations for a decade
  • Supported environmental monitoring for the LANL Open-burn Permit
  • Been able to parse out environmental impacts such as fire, drought, and habitat change versus chemical release impacts on avian populations
  • Supported the Natural Resource Damage Assessment program at LANL, showing little to no overall impact from chemical releases on avian populations.

As a long-term monitoring program at LANL, the Avian Nestbox Network is in the position to be a cost-effective and efficient surveillance tool for long-term environmental stewardship at Los Alamos, coupled with monitoring chronic low-level exposure to chemical releases and climate change.

Innovations for a secure nation

Four Los Alamos projects selected as R&D 100 Award finalists

Four Los Alamos projects selected as R&D 100 Award finalists

Finalists include X-ray imaging, pipe corrosion, data handling and damage-detection software  

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Los Alamos, NM 87545

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