Conservation planning requires information at a variety of geographic scales, and it is often unclear whether surveys designed for other purposes will provide appropriate information for management at various scales. We evaluated the use of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) to meet information needs for conservation planning in Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). The BBS originally was developed to provide regional estimates for states, provinces, physiographic regions, and larger areas. Many analyses have used physiographic regions within states/provinces as strata. We evaluated potential consequences of using BCRs instead of the BBS physiographic regions, testing for spatial differences in sample intensity within states and provinces. We reclassified the BBS survey routes to BCRs and conducted route regression trend (interval-specific population change) analyses for a variety of regions and time intervals. Our results were similar to those based on traditional BBS regions and suggest minimal consequences of the reclassification for the BBS sample. We summarized population change within BCRs and assessed the efficiency of the BBS in estimating population change for 421 species surveyed. As would be expected from an omnibus survey, many species appeared to be poorly monitored by the BBS, with 42% of species encountered at <1 bird per route from the survey, and 28% of trend estimates too imprecise to detect a 3% per year change over 35 years. Our results indicated that the quality of the survey for estimation of population change varied among BCRs. Population trends of species were heterogeneous over space and time, varying among BCRs for 76% of species and over time for 39% of species. Regional heterogeneity also existed in trends of species groups from the BBS. While 49% of all species in the survey had increasing populations, grassland breeding birds showed consistent declines, with only 18% of species having positive trend estimates. Bird Conservation Regions appear to provide reasonable strata for summary of BBS data.
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Use of North American Breeding Bird Survey data to estimate population change for bird conservation regions