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The first 50 years of the North American Breeding Bird Survey

July 27, 2017

The vision of Chandler (Chan) S. Robbins for a continental-scale omnibus survey of breeding birds led to the development of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). Chan was uniquely suited to develop the BBS. His position as a government scientist had given him experience with designing and implementing continental-scale surveys, his research background made him an effective advocate of the need for a survey to monitor pesticide effects on birds, and his prominence in the birding community gave him connections to infrastructure—a network of qualified volunteer birders who could conduct roadside surveys with standardized point counts. Having started in the eastern United States and the Atlantic provinces of Canada in 1966, the BBS now provides population change information for ∼546 species in the continental United States and Canada, and recently initiated routes in Mexico promise to greatly expand the areas and species covered by the survey. Although survey protocols have remained unchanged for 50 years, the BBS remains relevant in a changing world. Several papers that follow in this Special Section of The Condor: Ornithological Advances review how the BBS has been applied to conservation assessments, especially in combination with other large-scale survey data. A critical feature of the BBS program is an active research program into field and analytical methods to enhance the quality of the count data and to control for factors that influence detectability. Papers in the Special Section also present advances in BBS analyses that improve the utility of this expanding and sometimes controversial survey. In this Perspective, we introduce the Special Section by reviewing the history of the BBS, describing current analyses, and providing summary trend results for all species, highlighting 3 groups of conservation concern: grassland-breeding birds, aridland-breeding birds, and aerial insectivorous birds.

Publication Year 2017
Title The first 50 years of the North American Breeding Bird Survey
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-17-83.1
Authors John R. Sauer, David Ziolkowski, Keith L. Pardieck, Adam C. Smith, Marie-Anne R. Hudson, Vicente Rodriguez, Humberto Berlanga, Daniel Niven, William A. Link
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Condor
Index ID 70189858
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center