Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) are conducted along roadside routes to enable a large geographic area to be surveyed. Yet the potential biases of sampling populations only from roadsides have received little attention. We sampled aerial photography of BBS routes taken in the mid-1960s and late-1980s to evaluate whether habitat changes that occurred along roadsides were also occurring in the surrounding area, and whether the frequency of habitats encountered along roadsides were similar to that off-route. We examined 28 routes in Maryland and 25 routes in Ohio, and defined roadside area as within 200 m of the road, and off-route as 200-1,600 m from the road. Most habitat changes that occurred along BBS roadsides also were occurring in the off-route areas. However, increases in urban cover was significantly greater along the road in Maryland where urbanization of farmland was the predominant habitat change. The small increase in urban cover in Ohio was not significantly greater along the road. Construction of single family homes was greater along BBS roadsides in both states. In Ohio, the greatest change in habitat was the conversion of farmland back to forest, which was not significantly greater along the road. Changes associated with urbanization were more biased towards roadsides than the reforestation of farmland. Within one time period, roadside areas had less forest and more agricultural and urban cover types than occurred off-route.
Additional publication details
Potential roadside biases due to habitat changes along Breeding Bird Survey routes