Revision of Breeding-Bird-Survey-of-North-America from Mon, 2011-05-09 16:03

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The North American Breeding Bird Survey (1966-present) consists of data on the diversity and abundance of summer bird assemblages at approximately 5000 sites across the continental U.S. and Canada. Sampling began in 1966 and many sites have time-series that are at least 20 years long.

About BBS

The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) was formally launched in 1966 when approximately 600 surveys were conducted in the U.S. and Canada east of the Mississippi River. Today there are approximately 3700 active BBS routes across the continental U.S. and Canada, of which nearly 2900 are surveyed annually. Breeding Bird Surveys are conducted during the peak of the nesting season, primarily in June, although surveys in desert regions and some southern states, (where the breeding season begins earlier), are conducted in May. Each route is 24.5 miles long, with a total of fifty stops located at 0.5 mile intervals along the route. A three-minute point count is conducted at each stop, during which the observer records all birds heard or seen within 0.25 mile of the stop.

Official BBS Website

Acquiring BBS

BBS Raw Data

FTP site

Supplemental resources 

BBS Survey Routes map layer available at:

Using BBS

Best practices

  • Exclude nocturnal, crepuscular, and aquatic species as they are not well sampled
  • Exclude sites where RunType in the Weather table is 0 as this indicates a survey that does not pass quality standards
  • Make sure you use only the Run Protocol IDs (counts.RPID) that are appropriate for your study
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I see there are some tags at the bottom, e.g. Aves and time series, but it would be useful to have a header that actually says "Tags", because right now it just looks like additional entries under About Using BBS or whatever it is.

This 2012 Ecological Archives dataset ( contains landcover and landscape configuration data for 3,890 BBS routes. Add to EcologicalData and reference it on the BBS data page? (No organismal data, so I don't know how else one would discover it from the Find Data boxes.)

Also, this could be incorporated into the Retriever so it is automatically downloaded and integrated with the bird data!

Both excellent suggestions. Please add away.

We're in the process of planning for how to build integrated datasets into the Retriever and I'll go ahead and add a feature request for adding this one.