Breeding Bird Survey: how to participate

Take on a Breeding Bird Survey route and count birds… for the birds!

Image of Eastern Kingbird on branc
Photo: © Dan Busby, 2015
Eastern Kingbird on branc

Why we need your help

Bird conservation in North America depends on Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data. The BBS is based on a standardized, rigorous sampling design, a simple field protocol, and a core of expert observers. This core of experts is almost entirely composed of volunteers; the BBS cannot function without them.

Roughly half of the 1000 active BBS routes across Canada are run each year. Running the other half would be one of the best ways to improve the BBS. We need new recruits to help fill these gaps in survey coverage, and to take over existing routes when observers move away or retire. The BBS is a great way to explore and bird in new regions, to immerse yourself in the beauty that is the Canadian landscape, and to give back to the birds by putting your skills to good use. Check out the requirements for running a BBS route below, or contact us for more information.

Do you have what it takes?

The requirements for participating in the BBS are:

  1. The ability to quickly and accurately identify all birds in the area by sight and by sound
  2. Good hearing and eyesight
  3. Access to suitable transportation
  4. An intention to participate in the survey for at least two years

If you meet these criteria and are interested in participating, please contact your provincial BBS coordinator or the national CWS office. You can see what routes are available in your area by visiting the United States Geological Survey's Vacant Route tool.

Still learning?

If you are still working on your identification skills, consider pairing up with an existing BBS observer as their assistant until you learn the ropes and are able to take on a route of your own. Please contact your provincial BBS coordinator for more information. Also, be sure to check out Nature Instruct's Dendroica website to brush up on your bird song identification. You can quiz yourself using custom lists, and registration is free!

What does being a BBS participant entail?

Successfully running a BBS route is simple once you are familiar with the protocol. Read the Instructions and Safety Guidelines for running a BBS route.

The BBS is a continental survey and is jointly coordinated by the Canadian (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service), United States (U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre) and Mexican (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, CONABIO) governments. Contact information of participants and their bird data are stored in a shared US/Canada database. In recognition of their contribution to the BBS, names of participants are published each year in the annual Canadian Wildlife Service memo to participants, and may be published in other birding journals or newsletters. By participating in the BBS, volunteers agree to these conditions.

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