Landbird surveys overview

Landbird surveys table
Monitoring programVolunteer participationVolunteer skill levelSeasonal coverageGeographic coverage in Canada
Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring InstituteNoN/ABreedingAB
Bird Checklist Programs (Étude des Populations d'Oiseaux du Québec, Northwest Territories/Nunavut Bird Checklist Survey, eBird)YesAllYear-roundCanada
Breeding Bird AtlasesYesAllBreedingSeveral provinces/territories
Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN)YesAllSpring and fall migrationYT, BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS
Christmas Bird Count (CBC)YesAllWinteringCanada
Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)YesAllWinteringCanada
Hawk WatchYesAllSpring and fall migrationBC, AB, MB, ON, QC, NB
Joint Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM): Biodiversity & Habitat DisturbanceNoN/ABreedingAB
Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)YesAllBreedingYT, BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, PE, NL
Mountain Birdwatch / High Elevation Landbird Program (HELP)YesAdvancedBreedingQC, NB, NS
Nest Record Schemes / Project NestWatchYesAllBreedingCanada
Nocturnal Owl SurveyYesIntermediate and advancedBreedingYT, NT, BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE
North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)YesAdvancedBreedingCanada
Ontario Forest Bird Monitoring ProgramYesAdvancedBreedingON
Project FeederWatchYesAllWinteringCanada
Species-at-Risk Surveys (Landbirds)Yes and NoVariousVariousSeveral provinces/territories
Species at Risk Survey (SOS-POP)YesIntermediate and advancedYear-roundQC

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) is a long-term, multi-taxal monitoring program covering the province of Alberta. Terrestrial and wetland data are collected by ABMI staff across a systematic grid of 1656 points (20 x 20 km). Sites are visited as panels of nine points. The fully implemented program will monitor each site every five years, with 1/5 of the panels visited in a single year. Data are collected for approximately 2000 species, including mammals, birds, vascular and non-vascular plants, and mites. Bird surveys are conducted using recording units and 10-minute point counts from late May to late June. ABMI also collects data on physical characteristics such as soil chemistry and water quality, as well as mapping of land cover and human footprint. Data are publicly available except for location information.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
N/A
For more information, visit:
Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute's page.

Bird Checklist Programs

Volunteer observers use checklists to record the number and species of birds they encounter at any site on any particular day. There are several bird checklist programs currently active in Canada:

  1. Étude des Populations d'Oiseaux du Québec (ÉPOQ) was created in 1975 and is managed by Regroupement QuébecOiseaux. Participants submit their data via eBird Québec's online portal.
  2. The Northwest Territories/Nunavut Bird Checklist Survey was initiated in 1995 by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service to collect information on the distribution, abundance and breeding status of birds in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Participants submit their data via eBird Canada's online portal.
  3. eBird is a global bird checklist program, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in 2002. In Canada, eBird is coordinated by Bird Studies Canada.
Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can participate
For more information, visit
Regroupement QuébecOiseaux (available in French only), Environment and Climate Change Canada's Northwest Territories/ Nunavut Bird Checklist page, eBird Canada.

Breeding Bird Atlases

Breeding Bird Atlases involve an intensive effort over a limited time period (usually five years) to collect information on the distribution, breeding status and relative abundance of birds in all bird groups within a region at a relatively fine scale (usually 10 x 10 km grids in Canada). Atlases have been carried out in several Canadian provinces. Surveyors are primarily volunteers, who spend many hours birding in their grid during the breeding season. They record all bird species they observe and record behavioural evidence about whether each species was likely to be breeding in their grid. Atlases are typically repeated every 20 years.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Intermediate or advanced birders who can identify birds by sight and sound. Beginners can also contribute breeding information on species they can identify.
For more information, including Atlas projects currently looking for volunteers, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Breeding Bird Atlases page.

Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN)

Launched in 1998, the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network is a coordinated effort among individual bird monitoring stations, Bird Studies Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service to monitor landbirds during migration. Stations conduct a standardized program of bird banding, visual counts and/or a daily census to estimate the number of migrant birds passing through the area each day during spring and/or fall migration.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can observe and at some stations may be able to record data and assist in other ways. However, only trained bird banders can band birds. Many stations provide training opportunities for volunteers.
For more information and to find a station near you, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Canadian Migration Monitoring Network page.

Christmas Bird Count (CBC)

Initiated in 1900 by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a long-standing winter tradition in the Americas. Volunteers conduct a one-day census of all birds seen and heard within a pre-defined area during the weeks before and after Christmas. Bird Studies Canada coordinates the Canadian portion of the CBC.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can participate.
For more information, visit Bird Studies Canada's Christmas Bird Count page.

Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)

Started in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count is a global bird count concentrated over four days in mid-February. Volunteers of all skill levels observe birds for a minimum of 15 minutes per day on one or more of the survey days and report all the birds they see. These counts provide a snapshot of where birds are across the globe in late winter. In Canada, the count is coordinated by Bird Studies Canada.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to volunteer:
Birders of any skill level can participate.
For more information, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Great Backyard Bird Count page.

Hawk Watch

Hawk Watch is a count of migrating raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures), conducted by volunteers during spring and/or fall migration at specific locations across North America. Hawk Watch locations are usually situated on ridgelines or next to large bodies of water. These geographical features tend to act like funnels, causing large congregations of migrating birds to pass through relatively small areas. Volunteers identify and record all raptors that fly by, adding information about the age and/or sex of each individual whenever possible. Hawk Watch is coordinated by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA).

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to volunteer:
Birders of any skill level can participate. Good raptor identification skills are an asset.
For more information about Hawk Watching locations, visit
HMANA's Hawk Watch Sites page.

Joint Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring: Biodiversity and Habitat Disturbance

The Biodiversity & Habitat Disturbance component of the Joint Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) program is designed to monitor the impacts of habitat disturbance from oil sands activity on biodiversity. The JOSM Implementation Plan was released in 2012 and will be fully implemented by 2015. Monitoring is underway to assess status and trends of bird populations and to improve ability to detect trends for Species at Risk, rare species and species that are not easily monitored through dawn breeding surveys. Monitoring efforts also include surveys and analyses to assess relationships between bird groups (landbirds, waterfowl) and land disturbance footprint from oil sands activity and other stressors, and to assess the cumulative effects of oil sands development. Additional work includes migration monitoring of Whooping Crane (Endangered) and development of automatic recording survey methods for species such as Yellow Rail (Special Concern). The Biodiversity & Habitat Disturbance component of JOSM is delivered by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Boreal Avian Modelling Project and Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
N/A
For more information, visit the
Government of Canada-Government of Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal.

Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)

The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program's goals are to measure breeding success and survival of adult landbirds in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. At regular intervals during the breeding season, permitted bird banders, with the help of volunteers, catch landbirds in mist nets and carefully band each bird. Once a few measurements have been taken, the bird is set free. The process is repeated at the same site in subsequent years. There are several MAPS stations in Canada, which are often run in association with a bird observatory. The program is coordinated by the Institute for Bird Populations and has been running since 1989 in the United States and since the early 1990s in Canada.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can assist, although only trained bird banders can band birds.
For more information, visit the
Institute for Bird Population's MAPS page.

Mountain Birdwatch / High Elevation Landbird Program (HELP)

Initiated by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the International Bicknell's Thrush Conservation Group, Mountain Birdwatch targets ten species of landbird that breed at high elevations in eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States, including the threatened Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli). During the breeding season, volunteers visit high elevation sites and record all target bird species they see and hear during 20 minutes at each of three to six pre-determined locations along a section of trail or road. The program has been running in the U.S. since 2000, in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick since 2002. The program has been tested in Quebec for several years now, and may eventually be implemented. One of the challenges faced in Quebec is the vast territory to be covered in sparsely populated areas, which makes it difficult to recruit volunteers. Bird Studies Canada coordinates the program in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as a part of their High Elevation Landbird Program. Regroupement QuébecOiseaux will coordinate the program in Quebec, if it is implemented.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Advanced birders, with good backcountry skills.
For more information, visit the
Vermont Center for Ecostudies' Mountain Birdwatch Program page, Bird Studies Canada's High Elevation Landbird Program page and Regroupement QuébecOiseaux's Suivi des oiseaux nichant en altitude page (available in French only).

Nest Record Schemes / Project NestWatch

Data are collected for nest record schemes in all provinces and territories in Canada. The first nest record scheme began in 1952 in British Columbia. Volunteers find and carefully monitor nests throughout the breeding season, checking nests every few days to record their status. Information on single visits to nests is also useful. Originally, there were several regional schemes. In 2001, the Ontario and Prairie Nest Record Schemes developed a standardized coding method so that all data can now be submitted to the Project NestWatch database, which is coordinated by Bird Studies Canada.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can participate.
For more information, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Project NestWatch page.

Nocturnal Owl Survey

The Nocturnal Owl Survey is a roadside survey of breeding owls, conducted at night during late winter and/or early spring. Volunteers stop along pre-determined routes and listen for owls that are calling. In some regions, playback recordings are used to increase response rates. Coordinated by Bird Studies Canada, the survey takes place in all provinces and territories in Canada, except Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut. Surveys began in 1991 in Ontario, with other provinces and territories initiating surveys soon after.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Intermediate and advanced birders who can identify owl species by sight and sound.
For more information, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Nocturnal Owl Survey page.

North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)

The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is one of the most important surveys of breeding landbirds in North America because of its wide geographic scale, multiple-species coverage, scientifically rigorous approach, and long history. The BBS has been operating since 1966 in the United States and Canada, and since 2008 in Mexico. During the height of the breeding season, experienced birders record all birds seen and heard at designated points along roadside routes.

In 1996, the Grassland Bird Monitoring Program was created to increase BBS survey coverage for 20 species of grassland birds. For this part of the program, additional BBS routes were created in portions of Alberta and Saskatchewan where intact native grasslands are still relatively common.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Advanced birders who can identify birds by sight and sound, with an intention to participate for multiple years.
For more information, visit
Environment and Climate Change Canada's Breeding Bird Survey page.

Ontario Forest Bird Monitoring Program

Since 1987, the Ontario Forest Bird Monitoring Program has monitored interior forest birds breeding in mature, undisturbed forests in Ontario. Between late May and mid-July, experienced volunteers make two visits to an assigned forest site and record all birds seen or heard at five stations spaced a minimum of 250 m apart. This volunteer-based survey is coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Advanced birders who can identify birds by sight and sound.
For more information, contact
Email: fbmp@ec.gc.ca.

Project FeederWatch

Project FeederWatch is a program where volunteers observe and record information, at regular intervals throughout the winter, about the birds that visit their feeders. The program began in 1976 in Ontario and expanded to the rest of Canada and the United States in 1987. It is coordinated by Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Birders of any skill level can participate.
For more information, visit
Bird Studies Canada's Project FeederWatch page.

Species at Risk Surveys (Landbirds)

Environment and Climate Change Canada runs or supports several species-specific surveys and/or monitoring programs for Species at Risk. These programs are generally described in each species' various recovery documents, available on the Species at Risk Public Registry (see following links).

Surveys have been conducted for


Species at Risk Survey (SOS-POP)

Quebec's Species at Risk Survey program identifies important nesting sites occupied by avian species at risk, and tracks their activity year after year. Under the supervision of regional coordinators, volunteers monitor these species by visiting known nesting sites and reporting on their activities during the breeding season. Data are integrated into a database that tracks Quebec's at-risk birds. These data are used to inform and ensure the protection of these nesting sites. To maximize the program's benefits in terms of protection, instructions and priorities are reviewed annually by an oversight committee.This program is coordinated by Regroupement Québec Oiseaux.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Intermediate and advanced birders.
For more information, visit
Regroupement QuébecOiseaux's SOS-POP page (available in french only).
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