Avian Data Resources

Avian Data Resources

Compiled by Natalie Dubois

For many organizations in the land protection community, a major obstacle to implementing bird conservation into their local planning efforts may be a lack of information about the birds and priority sites found in their service areas.

Fortunately, the availability of survey and monitoring data continues to grow, and a number of initiatives publish their databases and provide public access through their websites. The resources listed below are frequently updated and may be useful for conservation planning at local scales.

Audubon’s Important Bird Areas Database

Explore the Important Bird Areas layers for Maine, Virginia, and Washington on our map viewer to find the names and locations of IBAs in your area. Using Audubon’s IBA database you can then read site descriptions for specific IBAs, learn about the sites’ ornithological significance, and retrieve data on the species that occur there.

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count 

Volunteers have been counting birds on the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for over 100 years, and their contributions represent a tremendously valuable resource for learning more about bird behavior and bird conservation. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day.

All individual CBCs are conducted in the period from December 14 to January 5 each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day. You can look up the results of this year’s count or explore results from previous years. The tools on the CBC webpages let you make maps of bird distributions, construct graphs of species trends over time, or see the raw count data.

Breeding Bird Survey 

A cooperative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the Canadian Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Research Centre, and Mexico's National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad), the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) monitors the status and trends of North American bird populations.

Thousands of dedicated participants follow a rigorous protocol to collect BBS data along randomly established roadside routes throughout the continent. Professional BBS coordinators and data managers work closely with researchers and statisticians to compile and deliver these population data and population trend analyses on more than 400 bird species, for use by conservation managers, scientists, and the general public. From the BBS website, you can download raw survey data or relative abundance and trend data associated with survey routes or a smoothed grid, including spatial data for use with geographic information systems.

Breeding Bird Atlases 

Generally organized at the state or provincial level, a Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) is a population survey project designed to cover large geographic areas using a grid-based system. Individuals participating in the project are assigned one or more grid-cell blocks where they conduct extensive area searches and record breeding evidence observed for each bird species. The results provide comprehensive information about the distribution of breeding birds in the region covered.

BBA Explorer, provided by the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the National Biological Information Infrastructure, provides access to data from published BBAs and interim data from ongoing BBAs in North America. You can also learn about the methods used in each atlas project, get species and block information, and view the results by species, block, or region in a table or map format.

From the BBA Explorer website, you can link to individual atlases for access to tabular species data and download spatial data for use with geographic information systems.

NatureServe Explorer

NatureServe Explorer (NSX) provides an array of information about the conservation status, taxonomy, distribution, life history, and habitat requirements of more than 70,000 species, including nearly 1,200 birds. NatureServe has developed this information over the past 35 years through the efforts of its staff, its natural heritage member programs, and a large number of collaborators in government agencies, universities, natural history museums and botanical gardens, and other conservation organizations. The data NSX provides to help guide conservation efforts and to inform environmental planning and management includes NatureServe conservation status, legal status, population viability assessment, among others.

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