A comprehensive monitoring program for colonial waterbirds in North America has never existed. At smaller geographic scales, many states and provinces conduct surveys of colonial waterbird populations. Periodic regional surveys are conducted at varying times during the breeding season using a variety of survey methods, which complicates attempts to estimate population trends for most species. The US Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has recently started to coordinate colonial waterbird monitoring efforts throughout North America. A centralized database has been developed with an Internet-based data entry and retrieval page. The extent of existing colonial waterbird surveys has been defined, allowing gaps in coverage to be identified and basic inventories completed where desirable. To enable analyses of comparable data at regional or larger geographic scales, sampling populations through statistically sound sampling designs should supersede obtaining counts at every colony. Standardized breeding season survey techniques have been agreed upon and documented in a monitoring manual. Each survey in the manual has associated with it recommendations for bias estimation, and includes specific instructions on measuring detectability. The methods proposed in the manual are for developing reliable, comparable indices of population size to establish trend information at multiple spatial and temporal scales, but they will not result in robust estimates of total population numbers.