By Outer Banks Voice on January 31, 2021
A group of government agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations will launch the first-ever NC Bird Atlas survey this March. The statewide community science survey will harness the power of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers to map the distribution and abundance of birds from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks.
The bird atlas begins this Spring and will take place through 2026. Organizers are encouraging bird enthusiasts of all experience levels to get involved by visiting ncbirdatlas.org and signing up for updates.
“More people than ever before are learning to identify the cardinals, chickadees, and all the other bird species at their backyard feeders,” says Scott Anderson, bird conservation biologist at the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. “The North Carolina Bird Atlas is a great opportunity for people to use these new-found skills and give a little back. You’ll deepen your knowledge of birds, have fun outside with new friends, and contribute to a widespread and critical research project that ultimately helps us better understand and protect birds.”
Bird atlases are large-scale, standardized surveys and have taken place in states across the country since the 1970s. North Carolina Bird Atlas organizers include the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, NC State University, NC Natural Heritage Program, North Carolina Audubon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Catawba College.
The Bird Atlas will divide the state into 937 “blocks”, each roughly 10 square miles. Working with regional coordinators, volunteer observers will fan out across each block over the course of the year, recording the birds and bird behaviors they see. All data is submitted through eBird, an easy-to-use online database of crowd-sourced bird observations.
Participating in a bird atlas is similar to birding, except that participants are asked to slow down. Rather than trying to observe as many bird species as possible, the atlas survey requires observers to watch individual birds closely and make note of behaviors. For example, an observer watching a Carolina Wren might take note of whether the bird is singing, or perhaps gathering twigs and leaves in its beak to build a nest.
The project comes at an important time for bird conservation. A recent study published in the journal Science found a steady decline of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities.
Gathering observations through the North Carolina Bird Atlas helps by giving researchers a more comprehensive picture of bird populations across North Carolina. Ultimately, the data help state wildlife officials, land managers, and conservation organizations make important conservation decisions.
The NC Bird Atlas is a statewide community science project led by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and partner groups, including NC State University, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Audubon North Carolina, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Catawba College. The project’s mission is to mobilize thousands of volunteer birdwatchers across the state to log all bird species over the span of five years. The data collected will help state wildlife officials, land managers, and conservation organizations make important conservation decisions. More information about the NC Bird Atlas and volunteer opportunities visit NCBirdAtlas.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.