Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | March 1, 2019
From Missouri Conservationist: March 2019

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Bird Conservation

Breeding Bird Survey

If you can identify every bird in your area by sight and sound, Janet Haslerig has a mission for you: Help with Missouri’s annual North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) this summer.

“Bird populations are subjected to numerous, widespread threats including habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, land-use changes, chemical contaminants, and climate change,” said Haslerig, resource scientist in MDC’s Resource Science Division. “If significant declines are detected through BBS data, their causes can then be identified and appropriate actions taken to reverse them before populations reach critically low levels.”

The BBS is a long-term, large-scale, international bird monitoring program that started in 1966. It tracks the status and trends of North American bird populations. Each year during the height of the bird breeding season for most of the U.S., BBS volunteers collect bird population data along roadside survey routes. Each survey route is 24 1/2 miles, with stops at ½-mile intervals. At each stop, volunteers conduct three-minute point counts. They record data for the bird species and numbers they see or hear within a quarter-mile radius. Surveys must start a half-hour before sunrise, and they take about five hours to complete.

Haslerig hopes surveyors will commit to several years of collecting data on the same route. “It helps with the consistency in data collection,” she said. “Volunteers also get familiar with the routes and have better ideas what birds they will encounter. And it’s fun!”

Volunteers must have the ability to identify all breeding birds on their routes by sight and sound. They must also successfully complete an online BBS methodology training program.

Breeding Bird Survey at a Glance

Survey Range: from Central Mexico to Canada

Number of Missouri Survey Routes: 80

Vacant Routes for 2019: 

  • Norborne
  • Doe Run
  • Cassville
Value of Data

Helps Canadian, American, and Mexican habitat managers track North American migratory bird populations and adjust management as needed

How to Volunteer


This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler