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The North American Breeding Bird Survey-BBS

Version 2005.1 - 25 March 2005

What is the Home Page?

The BBS Home Page is a source of information about distributions and population changes of North American birds. It is also a tool for learning about birds, with with connections to the ID tips with pictures of common North American birds and quizzes on bird distribution and identification.

What is the BBS?

The BBS is a large-scale survey of North American birds. It is a roadside survey, primarily covering the continental United States and southern Canada, although survey routes have recently been initiated in Alaska and northern Mexico. The BBS was started in 1966, and the over 3,500 routes are surveyed in June by experienced birders.

The primary objective of the BBS has been the estimation of population change for songbirds. However, the data have many potential uses, and investigators have used the data to address a variety of research and management objectives. In the Home Page, we summarize results from the BBS, and supplement the results with pictures of birds and other species information.

How does the Home Page work?

You can access information on bird species either by category (e.g. relative abundance maps, regional trend estimates, etc.) by clicking on the appropriate category icon, or by species (e.g., Wood Thrush) by clicking on the species account icon.

Categories of Information include:

Relative abundance maps,

Regional trend estimates,

Annual indices of abundance, and

Maps of population change.

Each of these categories has an icon that can be selected to display species information. For example, to examine a relative abundance map for Wood Thrush, click on the icon associated with "Abundance Maps" on the Home Page. You will then be presented with a list of species. Scroll down the list and click on "Wood Thrush," and an abundance map will be displayed.

Species Information:All of the categories of information can also be accessed through the species accounts. Each species has an account, which can be accessed either from the icon on the main menu of the Home Page or from any of the categories of species information. The accounts provide a means for accessing all information for a particular species directly, rather than having to select the species separately on the list for each category.

Detailed information is provided for selected species, but for all species we provide a summary table of basic life-history information in the species accounts.

Analysis of Groups of Species: We summarize the overall patterns of population change and species richness for several groups of species of ecological and management interest.

Supplemental Information

Analysis and interpretation of BBS data is tricky, because the survey incorporates information from a huge geographic area and the survey varies greatly in quality of information over the area. To document some of the problems with the analyses of BBS data, and help you interpret the results presented on the Home Page, we provide a series of help files that provide information on the survey, discuss problems with its analysis, and tell you how the presented information should be interpreted. We suggest you read the help files for each category of information before looking at the results.

Learning about birds with the Home Page

The BBS is an important source of information on where birds occur during June in North America. The maps of abundance provided here allow you to test your knowledge of breeding bird distributions. To help with the test, we provide a quiz of bird distributions in which you guess the species for a randomly- selected abundance map.

We also provide pictures of some of the bird species covered by the BBS. In this version of the Home Page, we provide more pictures of birds, and we provide songs of common birds.

Comments and Disclaimers

We welcome comments on the home page. We intend to improve it as new methods for summary of survey data are developed, and in response to user feedback. We caution that, as always in data analyses, the possibility exists for errors in the analyses and summaries.


Any analysis of BBS data must first acknowledge the large number of observers who conduct the counts. These counts are a lot of effort, and require a great deal of skill. We greatly appreciate their efforts. Of course, Chan Robbins, the originator of the survey, is still the primary source of energy and inspiration for analyses and interpretation of this challenging data set. A variety of data managers and coordinators, including Chan Robbins, Ted Van Velzen, Danny Bystrak, Sam Droege, Bruce Peterjohn, and Keith Pardieck (on the US side), and Tony Erskine, Connie Downes, and Bev McBride (on the Canadian side) have contributed to the program. We especially thank Jeff Hostetler and other BBS staff (past and present) for making the data available to us.

BRD Data Liability Disclaimer

Although these data have been processed successfully on a computer system at the United States Geological Survey Biological Resource Division, no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the accuracy or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. This disclaimer applies both to individual use of the data and aggregate use with other data. It is strongly recommended that these data are directly acquired from a Biological Resource Division server, and not indirectly through other sources which may have changed the data in some way. It is also strongly recommended that careful attention be paid to the contents of the metadata file associated with these data. The Biological Resource Division shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the data described and/or contained herein.

So, these data are provided "as is" and without any express or implied warranties, including, without limitation, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Also, use of trade names or commercial products in this home page is solely for the purpose of providing specific information, and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Government.