Use of North American Breeding Bird Survey data in avian conservation assessments

The Condor
By: , and 



Conservation resources are limited, and prioritizing species based on their relative vulnerability and risk of extinction is a fundamental component of conservation planning. In North America, the conservation consortium Partners in Flight (PIF) has developed and implemented a data-driven species assessment process, at global and regional scales, based on quantitative vulnerability criteria. This species assessment process has formed the biological basis for PIF's continental and regional planning and has informed the ranking and legal listing of bird species for conservation protection by state, provincial, and national agencies in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Because of its long time series, extensive geographic and species coverage, standardized survey methods, and prompt availability of results, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) has been an invaluable source of data, allowing PIF to assign objective vulnerability scores calibrated across more than 460 landbird species. BBS data have been most valuable for assessing long-term population trends (PT score). PIF has also developed methods for estimating population size by extrapolating from BBS abundance indices, allowing the assignment of categorical population size (PS) scores for landbird species. At regional scales, BBS relative abundance indices have allowed PIF to assess the area importance (i.e. stewardship responsibility) of each Bird Conservation Region (BCR) for each species, using measures of both relative density and percent of total population in each BCR. Besides direct applicability to assessment scores, PIF has recently used BBS trend data to create new metrics of conservation urgency (e.g., ‘half-life'), as well as for setting population objectives for tracking progress toward meeting conservation goals. Future directions include integrating BBS data with other sources (e.g., eBird) to assess additional species and nonbreeding season measures, working closely with BBS coordinators to expand surveys into Mexico, and providing assessment scores at implementation-relevant scales, such as for migratory bird joint ventures.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Use of North American Breeding Bird Survey data in avian conservation assessments
Series title The Condor
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-17-57.1
Volume 119
Issue 3
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher American Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description 13 p.
First page 594
Last page 606
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