The Breeding Bird Survey: Its first fifteen years, 1965-1979

Resource Publication 157
By: , and 



The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is an ongoing cooperative program sponsored jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Its main purpose is to estimate population trends of the many species of birds that nest in North America north of Mexico and that migrate across international boundaries. This survey provides information, both locally by ecological or political regions and on a continental scale, on (1) short-term population changes that can be correlated with specific weather incidents, (2) recovery periods following catastrophic declines, (3) normal year-to-year variations, (4) long-term population trends, and (5) invasions of exotics. The BBS also permits detailed computer mapping of relative abundance of each species, either year by year to show changes in distribution and relative abundance, or the average over a period of years. It provides base-line data with which more intensive local studies can be compared. For biogeographic studies it provides uniform sampling of bird populations by major physiographic regions across the continent. In conjunction with the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, it permits comparison of summer and winter distribution of species that winter in the United States. Most species of North American birds migrate across international boundaries, especially those shared with Canada, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. As part of our responsibility under treaties with these nations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed the BBS to monitor avian population changes so that any adverse trends can be detected early. This provides the opportunity to determine the reasons for any increase or decrease, to define geographic areas in which changes are greatest, to study correlations between avian population changes and land-use changes, and to make recommendations for controlling undesirable bird population trends. For example, the BBS can be used to detect and estimate the extent of losses resulting from widespread use of pesticides, and to reveal whether major population changes of a given species (e.g., Dickcissel) in certain States are related to a continental decline or are merely a result of population shifts within the breeding range. Effects of urban and suburban expansion are often reflected in the loss of forest interior birds. Population trends for 230 species as well as several avian genera and families are discussed and graphed in this report. For most of these species, regional and well as continental trends are shown. The three major regions discussed are the Eastern, Central, and Western, bounded by the Mississippi River and the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. Additional graphs for certain States or physiographic regions are included for selected species of special interest. The following paragraphs summarize general trends in the major bird families. The native herons in general are maintaining their populations, whereas the exotic Cattle Egret continues its geographic spread and its steady increase. Waterfowl as a group are stable or increasing. Although most widespread species of hawks are on the increase, the rarer species show evidence of decline. Among the gallinaceous birds, the greatest change was a sharp drop in Northern Bobwhite as a result of the exceptionally cold winters of 1976-77 and 1977-78 in the Ohio Valley and the Middle Atlantic States. Killdeer populations, except for a minor decline during these two winters, showed strong increases except in the West. American Woodcock were poorly sampled by the BBS because they were relatively inactive during daylight. Common Snipe and the other common shorebirds that nest in the United States and southern Canada exhibited stable or increasing populations, especially in the Eastern and Central regions. Herring Gull counts varied dramatically and irregularly from year to year. Laughing Gulls increased along the Atlantic coast and Franklin's Gulls declined in the interior of the continen

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title The Breeding Bird Survey: Its first fifteen years, 1965-1979
Series title Resource Publication
Series number 157
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description iii, 196 p.