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The role of the North American Breeding Bird Survey in conservation

August 20, 2017

The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) was established in 1966 in response to a lack of quantitative data on changes in the populations of many bird species at a continental scale, especially songbirds. The BBS now provides the most reliable regional and continental trends and annual indices of abundance available for >500 bird species. This paper reviews some of the ways in which BBS data have contributed to bird conservation in North America over the past 50 yr, and highlights future program enhancement opportunities. BBS data have contributed to the listing of species under the Canadian Species at Risk Act and, in a few cases, have informed species assessments under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. By raising awareness of population changes, the BBS has helped to motivate bird conservation efforts through the creation of Partners in Flight. BBS data have been used to determine priority species and locations for conservation action at regional and national scales through Bird Conservation Region strategies and Joint Ventures. Data from the BBS have provided the quantitative foundation for North American State of the Birds reports, and have informed the public with regard to environmental health through multiple indicators, such as the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Report on the Environment. BBS data have been analyzed with other data (e.g., environmental, land cover, and demographic) to evaluate potential drivers of population change, which have then informed conservation actions. In a few cases, BBS data have contributed to the evaluation of management actions, including informing the management of Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Improving geographic coverage in northern Canada and in Mexico, improving the analytical approaches required to integrate data from other sources and to address variation in detectability, and completing the database, by adding historical bird data at each point count location and pinpointing the current point count locations would further enhance the survey's value.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title The role of the North American Breeding Bird Survey in conservation
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-17-62.1
Authors Marie-Anne R. Hudson, Charles M. Francis, Kate J. Campbell, Constance M. Downes, Adam C. Smith, Keith L. Pardieck
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Series Number
Index ID 70190187
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center