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INTRODUCTION: Most Neotropical migrant birds are difficult to count accurately and are moderately common over large breeding distributions. Consequently, little historical information exists on their large-scale population changes, and most of this information is anecdotal. Surveys begun in this century such as Breeding Bird Censuses and Christmas Bird Counts have the potential to provide this information, but only the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) achieves the extensive continental coverage necessary to document population changes for most Neotropical migrant birds. Conservationists and ecologists have begun to use BBS data to estimate population trends, but there is still widespread confusion over exactly what these data show regarding population changes. In this chapter, we review the current state of knowledge regarding population changes in Neotropical migrant birds and the methods used to analyze these changes. The primary emphasis is on the BBS (Robbins et al. 1986) because this survey provides the best available data for estimating trends of Neotropical migrants on a continental scale. To address questions about methods of analyzing survey data, we review and compare some alternative methods of analyzing BBS data. We also discuss the effectiveness of the BBS in sampling Neotropical migrant species, and review possibilities for use of alternative data sets to verify trends from the BBS.
Additional Publication Details
Population trends from the North American Breeding Bird Survey