Great Basin National Park is located on the south Snake Range in east-central Nevada. The nearest town is Baker, Nevada located near the Nevada-Utah border. Like all Great Basin ranges it is bordered by broad valleys, on the east by Snake Valley and on the west by Spring Valley. The most prominent feature is Wheeler Peak at 13,063 ft., the second highest point in Nevada. Because of the broad elevational range and topographic relief, unique vegetation zones from salt desert shrub, spruce forest to alpine occur creating a diversity of habitats. Of the seven Merriam's life zones described for North America, Great Basin National Park includes five. In addition, nine perennial streams flow from the park creating over 30 miles of riparian habitat that includes sub-alpine meadows, aspen, cottonwood and dense-shrub. Great Basin National Park is all federal land and is mandated to preserve the scenic and natural resources.
Historically, there have been numerous surveys of Nevada's high country for bird species endemic to alpine and sub-alpine habitats. Although the habitats can be found on the summit of several of the state's 314 ranges, the characteristic birds of these elevations are for the most part absent. However, these species and their habitats are regular features of this IBA. Of the 51 birds listed in the Nevada Partners in Flight priority list, 28 (55 percent) have range distributions that encompass Great Basin National Park. Another 5 species have range distributions that are adjacent to Great Basin National Park. Several Nevada Partners in Flight priority species list apparently have significant densities here. Based on point count data conducted in 1995 and 1996, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Red-naped Sapsucker and MacGillivray?s Warbler had frequency of occurrences greater than 10 percent. Wilson's Warbler, Pinyon Jay, and Yellow-breasted Chat were also detected but less frequently (less than 10 percent frequency of occurrence).
The Park contains over 30 miles of riparian habitats. Most of the sensitive birds documented for Great Basin National Park are neotropical migrants and tend to use riparian areas for breeding. Point count data in riparian areas have detected numerous Black-throated Gray Warblers, MacGillivray's Warbler, Wilson?s Warbler, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Red-naped Sapsuckers are frequently detected also (14 percent frequency of occurrence). Numerous other warblers including Yellow Warbler were also detected with greater than 10 percent occurrence. Riparian habitats are threatened habitat in Nevada through poor grazing management, human development, and recreation (among many threats). However, riparian habitats are largely protected within the Great Basin National Park. Riparian habitats include cottonwood forests, dense shrub habitats of rose, red-osier dogwood, birch and willows, aspen forests, ponderosa pine stands, spruce forest, and meadows.
Sagebrush-steppe and savannah habitats and shrub dependent birds are threatened primarily by increased canopy coverage of pinyon, juniper, and mahogany. Medin (1982) found the greatest diversity of birds in mountain big sage, mountain big sage savannahs, and mixed conifer habitats. Though some 20,000 acres of sagebrush-steppe and savannah still exist within Great Basin National Park, over 12,000 acres have succeeded to dense pinyon, juniper, and mahogany woodlands resulting in smaller fragmented patches of sagebrush-steppe. These trends are similar throughout Nevada. Priority species found here include Greater Sage Grouse, Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Vesper Sparrow, Virginia?s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, MacGillivray?s Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Calliope Hummingbird.
High elevation alpine, sub-alpine, and spruce forest within Great Basin National Park are near-natural habitats. Though some livestock grazing and logging has occurred, these high elevation sites are largely intact. They have missed the fewest fire intervals and thus are still likely within their natural range of variability. Birds from the priority list include Black Rosy Finch, Three-toed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Calliope Hummingbird, Prairie Falcon, and Northern Goshawks.
Good quantitative surveys for raptors have not occurred at Great Basin National Park. However, all raptors listed in the Nevada Partners in Flight priority list have been documented in and around Great Basin National Park. It is possible that the South Snake Range provides a corridor for migratory raptors but this has not been confirmed. The high elevation and nearly continuous winds provide optimal conditions for soaring and elevation gain. In addition, cliff faces and late successional conifer stands and deciduous riparian habitats with large trees and snags provide widespread nesting habitat.