North American Breeding Bird Survey

Strategic Planning Workshop

USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


November 15-16, 2005




Location: USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Md.


Meeting Organizers:

Keith Pardieck and Dave Ziolkowski, Jr.


Meeting Facilitators:

Karen Buehler (Day 1)

Tom Will (Day 2)


Meeting participants:

Eighteen individuals participated including representatives from the U.S. and Canadian national BBS offices, Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, Canadian Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, North Carolina State University, North American Bird Conservation Initiative, and Partners in Flight.  See Appendix A for a complete list of participants and contact information.



We thank all of the participants for their attendance and service at the meeting and extend special thanks to Tom Will for graciously accepting the challenge of facilitating on the second day.


Workshop Objectives:

Evaluate and prioritize the needs and goals of the BBS program as identified by the Peer Review report, BBS program managers and the avian conservation community.  Prepare a 5-year strategic planning document for the BBS program that:

1)    prioritizes and determines relative resource requirements to the pending peer review recommendations and other identified issues,

2)    identifies the issues of greatest import to the BBS program over the next 5 years, and

3)    outlines a strategy, timeline, and resource needs for accomplishing each 5-year goal.

See Appendix B for collective list of individual participant goals and objectives.


Workshop Structure:

Facilitated discussions and break-out groups designed to distill, capture, and prioritize the key scientific and operational issues facing the BBS.



A collective visioning exercise was performed primarily as a preamble to developing a mission statement.  Each participant was asked to envision: Where the BBS should be 5 years from now?  How would the success be measured?  Who would recognize the success?  Participants then broke into four teams to further develop these visions.  The group did not consolidate a collective vision statement due to time constraints and doubts as to need, since the BBS is a tool not an organization.  However, a vision statement could be written using the elements captured by the four teams. 


See Appendix C for a listing of vision themes and elements captured by each team.






Participants developed a mission statement by collectively considering the following guidelines:

1) what does the BBS do,

2) who does it do it for / or with whom,

3) what is the benefit or value of BBS products


A facilitated whole group discussion resulted in the following BBS mission statement:


We provide scientifically credible measures of the status and trends of North American bird populations at continental and regional scales to inform and assess* biologically sound conservation and management actions*.”



* Note: Continued discussion centered on whether to add the words “assess” and “actions” to the finished statement.  There appeared to be tentative agreement to retain both.






A combination of facilitated whole group discussion and break-out group work yielded three primary scientific goals of the BBS.  Participants were given the opportunity to identify two priorities each.

Numbers in parentheses indicate total priority votes.  Bulleted items beneath each goal indicate discussion items and were not necessarily agreed upon by the entire group.


1.    (17)  Estimate Population Change

— using annual indices that also capture annual variation in bird numbers

— at the scale of a BCR or higher

— for individual species and for defined clusters of species (environmental indicators, species richness, community guilds, “state of the birds” reporting?)

— with specified resolution (power to detect 50% decline over 20 years) and accuracy (80%)


2.    (11)  Provide Data for Model-based Conservation Planning

— models that associate bird populations with environmental features (e.g. habitat, climate, habitat change?)

— resolution of the causes underlying bird population variation

— combine BBS counts with habitat and other spatially explicit data to increase interpretation and application of BBS data)

— resolve species/habitat associations (species densities by habitat and landscape)


3.     (3)   Estimate Species Population Size (for setting population goals)

— provide the data and address the detection and bias issues that enable BBS to be used for this purpose

— provide acceptable range of accuracy for population estimates






As a subtopic in the above exercise, participants were given an opportunity to identify the geographic scale that the BBS most appropriately addresses.  Participants were nearly evenly divided between the regional scale (i.e., BCR; 6 votes) and the continental scale (5 votes), with several participants encouraging equal emphasis on both (4 votes).






An evaluation of the results of the preceding exercises identified several themes that capture the issues currently facing the BBS (list follows).  In consideration of the limited meeting time remaining, the group conservatively agreed to single out one theme for initial consideration that warranted the most discussion.


Total individual votes indicated by the numbers in parentheses.


          I) Enhancing Data Quality for Science (14)

          II) Enhancing Data Use (1)

          III) Building and Maintaining Support (3)


The first theme was selected and subsequently sub-divided into four topic areas, each further discussed by specific break-out groups:


Ia)   Enhancing Geographic coverage

Ib)  Increasing Observer Quality

Ic)   Addressing Habitat Bias Issues

Id)  Addressing Bias in Detection Probability


The break-out groups additionally recommended strategies for addressing each of the goals within the four topic areas.



After reformation of the entire participant group, participants split into two break-out groups to further tackle Issues II and III.  Each break-out group again further fleshed out the issues and proposed recommended strategies.








Group Ia:  Enhancing Geographic Coverage

Areas to be addressed:

-        Expansion into Mexico

-        Filling gaps within current BBS coverage area ( e.g. northern fringe of Canada, SW U.S.)

-        Habitat gaps (high mountains; native grasslands) – not addressed by this group





?  - Find ways to run at least 1 route/degree block throughout continental coverage area.  [This recommendation requires long-term action and high resources.  Need guidance from trend analysts & modelers on importance of even coverage, relative to items below.]


1.      Do new analysis of precision of trends at “continental” scale (current U.S. & Canada BBS coverage area) to develop more detailed advice on number of routes needed within BCR or continent to meet precision target for each species at each of these scales.  (Assume precision target is that of Bart et al. 2005.)  Provide guidance on minimum/maximum N routes/degree block that are needed to meet precision targets.  (I.e. – maybe no value of adding after you have a certain number/block.)  Need to consider effect of uneven coverage within BCR – what guidelines should there be for min/max n routes/degree block.


2.      In the short term (i.e., before analysis done), develop interim guidelines for regional coordinators for Canada, U.S. & MX, on addition of routes beyond 1/degree block.  (For example, if have extra volunteers, is it of any value or detriment to add routes/block in some areas when coverage would become uneven across region.    Strategy: advertise available routes and don’t advertise possibility of new routes.   Query for John Sauer:  is there any problem with analysis if N/block are uneven.  Canadian analysis weights by degree block.)


3.      Analyze current BBS data based on sub-set of stops (e.g. first 20) to examine effect on trend and precision.  Examine effects of uneven geographical distribution of short routes.  Develop recommendations for length of routes for Mexican program and appropriateness of mini-routes in far north.                                                                                    


4.      Hold a meeting to develop a preliminary strategy for expanding BBS into Mexico, as preparation for presentation at workshop planned for Veracruz.  (E.g., might set up routes throughout country, but focus on U.S. funding to cover cross-border BCRs and train locals as part of job, etc.  Consider stratified design with protected areas as one stratum—as those are more easily covered early on in survey development, and stratified sampling could accommodate less sampling in some strata.)


5.      Conduct a study in which routes are run by observer and recordings are made simultaneously, which are later counted by a different observer, with objective of recommending whether recording is a useful means of covering routes where no observers are available.



Group Ib:  Increasing Observer Quality - Recruitment Issues

See Appendix D for further details of the group’s considerations


Format:  * Goals

                   Strategies (5-Year Priority)





*Hearing loss affecting data quality and can it be mitigated with hearing aides?

                    Subsample observers and evaluate (High)

*Are personal skill changes (sensu ID ability) affecting data quality?

                    Subsample observers and evaluate (Low)

*Does equipment availability affect data quality (especially consider Mexico).

                    Subsample observers and explore correlations w/ equipment (Med)

*Do increasing ID abilities in the observer community as a whole affect data credibility?

                    Explore correlations with ‘changes in the birding community’ (Med)

*Does observer experience on the route affect data quality?

                    Subsample observers and explore correlations w/ experience (High)

Related to above - Observer turnover (how useful are short term observers?)



Training-(Mexico – High, US/Can – Low)


-Identification skills


                              Mentoring program

-Field skills (individual counts, recording data, etc.)


                    Mentoring program

Certification - minimum observer quality standards.

          Identification skills (Low)

                    Online skills test

In the field (i.e., w/ coordinator, mentor, etc.)

          Methodology (Largely Complete)

Translate into Spanish (High)

Assessment -

Hearing ability (Low)

          Regular hearing evaluations

Skills (Mexico – Medium, US/Can - Low)

          Regular evaluation

                    - regular online skills testing

                    - regular in the field (i.e., w/ coordinator, mentor, etc.)






The two priorities ranked highest above, hearing loss issues and observer route experience/turnover issues, are directly related to two observer attrition and recruitment issues.



*Is retaining skilled observers as important as new recruitment - can

     observer longevity in the BBS be extended with the use of hearing aides?

*Short-term observers (e.g., field techs, college students, etc.) are available for many

     routes but are currently discriminated against - do they provide more value in

     our goal of filling all existing routes than they cost in data quality?

*Skilled observers are available for recruitment in areas where routes are covered – can

     we create new routes for these folks even though that means uneven route dispersion

     across the state?

*What is the likelihood of filling routes in border BCR’s of Mexico?



Group Ic:  Addressing Habitat Bias Issues


On-road v. Off-road. -- This is a major criticism of BBS. 


General -- Additional testing of roads as attractants or repellents for different species.

Consider prioritizing by habitats based on groups of taxa most in need of conservation

Consider road density, road type, land-use intensity in vicinity

Should we have a road condition co-variate – has profile or definition ‘secondary roads changed over time.

How is traffic being incorporated into data.  How does this overlap with observer bias and hearing issues.


Priority -- High


·       Form group that sets up studies; could habitat working group be peer-review panel to evaluate proposed studies and criteria for studies and RFPs, and priorities for next steps, guidance on this issue.   Focused and limited feasible studies – initiate 3 within next 5 years?



Routes v. Habitat Coverage


Coverage uneven?  How do we address at Continental level – it’s a habitat issue. 

Lawlor paper in 2004 examined route coverage relative to habitat coverage.  Will additional routes correct this, or should other methods be used.  Resolution of land cover layers is very important.

How can NLCD (or other mapping re-GAP) be used coincident with BBS to inform analyses with current mapping that tracks land changes, resulting in analyses that show what is given up in terms of birds with land conversion.

Is radar an opportunity to look at on-road off-road issues.


Priority -- High


·       Evaluate what Lawlor and O’Conner.  Finish Wayne’s similar work using higher resolution landcover layers.  Scale should be at BCRxState/Province polygons.


GPSing Route stops?


Inform habitat modeling and change over time in habitats

Especially to examine routes from one end to the other.  And changes such as developments at specific stops – can be analyzed later.

          Areal extent – is it 400 m radius around stop?  Species specific, but


Priority -- High


·       Canvass country to see where we stand, with level

·       Within 5 years, GPS &/or geo – locate all stops (In some habitats assume ½ mile stops throughout, e.g. in ag areas?



·       National initiative coordinated by States or state groups

·       Need to set standard for volunteers?  Within 25 m of GPS point?  Emphasize importance of location.  Incorporate into training.

·       Ortho-photo quads or Google maps for people to mark on, in lieu of GPS.

·       Strike deal with Google

·       Map coordinator position on BBS or other USGS staff, contract out to get those digitized?

·       Go through NBII

·       Photo overlays also provide some habitat information

·       NBII – locator for all monitoring activities; develop a tool for users to add points for their routes.

·       Reconsider in 5 years habitat information

·       BBL?


Other stop-level information to be collected?

·       Don’t over-burden volunteers.


Co-variates of population change



To what degree could BBS incorporate co-variates into trend analysis: disease, weather cycles, annual effects v. long-term gross land-cover changes.


Priority -- Low


Acknowledge importance of some variables driving annual population change, including weather.   Study whether or not it is useful to incorporate annual co-variates that might influence changes in bird populations


Develop Library of Models

          Priority – Medium

·       Have the habitat group evaluate models and coordinate spatial analyses available to research community and conservation managers.

Group Id:  Addressing Bias in Detection Probability

See Appendix E for further details of the group’s considerations.


Strategies to deal with detectability effects

  1. Select a subset of routes and start to implement some appropriate approaches using (under-)paid crews


        e.g. running routes twice

        “removal” method approaches


  1. Call for existing BBS volunteers willing to participate in specific limited           experiments:


       running routes twice (or multiple times)

       double observer effects

       (Note: requires framework to receive data into system)


3. Support (ongoing) research into factors that influence detectability:


-        e.g. playback experiments (e.g. Ted Simons research)

-        work with microphones and recordings

-        include evaluating observers and observer training



-- Develop a working group to prepare an experimental design or call for proposals (could be external, e.g. to NSF)

-- Collaboration of operational and research people

-- Use results of estimation to model potential impacts on trend/population change estimates (i.e. to determine whether it really matters)

-- 2-year post-doc $85k, operations $40k







*** Route replacement issues—need further study.

** What to do about requests for alternate routes?  Need resolution and standard policy.



Philosophy: don’t limit people from doing what they want (but make sure they are aware of limitations)




LOW: 1 - Use an Arc/IMS type tool to allow users to select routes to download or analyse data (e.g. Thogmartin tool, Cornell tool, or BBL tool)

- allow users to easily analyse multiple species when they do this!

- perhaps could get some NBII funding to help do some of this


MEDIUM: 2 – better integrate web presence of BBS summaries (e.g. BSC, UMESC, BBS) increase understanding of how people are currently using data, and perhaps develop links/packages on BBS web page to other generalized applications.


HIGH: 3 – Encourage/explore modeling approaches that integrate BBS data with other sources of data (e.g. refuge data, point count data) in analyses.

- ensure that point level data are available along with coordinates

- Detectability and observer effects will help to enhance this


HIGH: 4 – Continue to practice high quality data management practices:

          (still need to prioritize within this)

          - flexible data base design

- HIGH: annual review of metadata to ensure complete and up-to-date as

  possible. Formal review of metadata.

- HIGH: keep metadata on changes in routes over time (starting now).

- LOW: computerize historical information on changes in routes.

- LOW: scan historical paper documents and provide electronic image access to

  allow volunteer entry of point level data

- HIGH: make stop coordinate (lat/long) information more readily available

- MEDIUM: species-name issues (scientific names, changes in taxonomy)

- HIGH: complete a stand-alone program for data entry for users who don’t want

  to use web page to enhance amount of internet-based data entry.

- MEDIUM: ability to display locations data to enhance editing (and many other

things). Allow editing of stop location data – can probably be done with some GIS


- MEDIUM: make .pdf files of individual routes available on web

- (some can take advantage of BBL expertise)


HIGH: 5 – BBS should encourage others to develop higher level of interpretation of trends: web site summarizes state of birds e.g., what is the meaning of trends.

- Greg Butcher: is interested in doing something with Audubon

- RSPB/BTO state of birds report.

- (fits within Build and Maintain Support)


HIGH: 6 – Encourage new approaches to analyses to enhance reliability of results, particularly for looking at annual indices (e.g. by making hierarchical models operational) to better understand non-linear population change.



- Develop a comprehensive (e.g. 20-page) users guide to the BBS for what it is, how it works, how to analyse the data, what are the limitations, differences in analysis methods among sites …, functioning like the PIF handbook.

- BBS office has a number of other idea to enhance outreach:

- e.g. Powerpoint presentations







How do you recruit?

          From State coordinators – through their network.

          Not all State coordinators are equally functional.

          OR-WA PIF and other PIF coordinators.  Connections within bird

          conservation/birding community.  Audubon.


          “Conservation through Birding”


          Canada:  CWS – support for govt. workers.  Workshops.  Breeding Bird Atlases.


          Agencies – IAFWA – Reiterate message from USGS to directors of agencies.


          CONABIO – the database compilers in Mexico, moving into gathering phase.            CONABIO will be promoting (investing?) in data gathering.  This is an easy

          connection.    Perhaps could provide some funding for coordination, training,

          perhaps in steps (north, mid, south) over 20 years.


          Is there group ownership in running routes.  Biggest thing with State

          Coordinators is in connections they have with the birding communities.


          Problem with organizations is the problem of volunteer turn-over.  For routes not

          being run regularly, could have birding clubs send teams of two, which would

          include a trainee.


          Master Birder – Course for people to learn about ecology and natural history….


          In Canada – bird Quest, taking young birders through 3 levels of learning.  

          Foundered because of lack of expertise to teach kids the upper levels of training

          – needed naturalist or birding clubs to take this on.


          Mentoring hugely important.


          Personal Anecdotes


          Rewards.  Web-based gratification



Priority – Yep


  • Annual message to IAFWA and Fed Agencies to allow time to do BBS routes.
  • Message to Birding communities: 
    • It’s fun
    • It’s a conservation obligation – “Conservation Birding”
  • “Bring a friend”, particularly a young friend (with good hearing)
  • Breeding Bird Atlas participants – maintain that network after the atlas
  • Mexico
    • Target a group, particularly young people
    • Strategy for catching them would be completely different – develop a long-term project. 
    • Training -- provide incentives,
    • U.S. participation works in northern States, but in C. Mex, where larger proportion of Mex. Birdwatchers. 
      • Capture bird tourists? 
      • Work with tourist guides. 
      • Staff in protected areas – 130 big protected areas with paid staff.  If 80% had one trained people, running 3or 4 rtes. Per year, equals ca. 300-400 rtes. Per year.  These people act as seeds, for mentoring others. 
    • $$ is not key issue.  The key is to how to conveying why it’s worthwhile.  Must sell as a way that gives returns – information rewards – not just because it’s fun. 
    • $$ could create a system of rewards.  E.g. $$ for 10 binoculars, field guides, and GPS units, give to these people if they commit to 5 years and train 20 people.  Also, for older those who are capable in Mex., partner with U.S. birders, to visit Mex. And work with.  It’s growing in Mex, with Bird Festivals in some States now.  Training essential.
    • Other Mexican agencies could be involved.  Directory of organizations involved in birds.  If we show them the benefit, they could get involved.
    • Example in Nayarit – between Aculpulco and Mazatlan.  Their strategy will be to attract tourists – have ‘em run routes
  • Encouraging BBS ethic into Master Birding classes and environmental ed. for kids
  • CWCS plans – have monitoring components, all.  Should be support there.



Prioritiy – Ultra High and major purpose of document from this group

  • Highlight accomplishments of BBS as way to support…
    • Packet of Materials:  Here’s what we are, What we’ve done, Where we want to go.  A publicity package.  Emphasize importance to PIF.
  • Gather high profile constituents and lobby congress for $$$.
  • Gather high profile constituents and lobby private funders for endowment.
  • Identify a specific NGO to run endowment…
  • USGS coalition
  • Funding for maintenance, training, outreach – will come from prioritized goals from rest of document.
  • Show connection and benefit to industry and tourism as way to garner $ support.

Prioritization of tasks/priorities identified within each topic area


Topic areas are: Enhancing Geographic Coverage, Increasing Observer Quality, Habitat Bias Issues, Addressing Bias in Detection Probability, Enhancing Data Use, and Building and Maintaining the Support Network.  During break-out groups strategies were prioritized within topic areas.  This exercise allowed group members to prioritize items relative to each other.  Each workshop participant was given seven votes with only one vote per item permitted.


(Number of votes in parenthesis; science sub-group after dash)


  1. GPS stop locations (11) – Habitat
  2. Select subset of routes for evaluating detection bias (e.g., run route 2 times or “removal” methods (10) – Detectability
  3. Integrated umbrella study to fully asses scenarios of route allocation and develop/recommend guidelines (8) – Geographic
  4. Meeting to develop strategy for expansion of BBS into Mexico (7) – Geographic
  5. Collection of strategies to grow BBS network (7) –
  6. Establish training for observers (especially in Mexico) in ID and field skills (6) -- Observer
  7. Encourage analyses that explore ways to produce joint trends based on BBS plus other data (e.g., point counts) (5) –
  8. Funding Strategy group? (5) –
  9. Form group that sets up studies of on-road vs. off-road bias (4) – Habitat
  10.  Translate methodology into Spanish (4) – Observer
  11.  Support (on-going) research into factors affecting detectability (e.g., playback experiments, mikes and recordings, observer training, etc.) (3) – Detectability
  12.  Address assumption that routes sample habitat within a region: evaluate lawlor & O’Conner, pursue additional studies at BCR/state/prov scale (3) -- Habitat
  13.  Use results of estimation to model potential impacts on population trend estimates (Does it really matter?) (3) – Detectability
  14.  Study issues of route replacement and make recommendations (3) –
  15.  Encourage new analytical approaches (e.g. hierarchical models) (3) –
  16. Explore effect of hearing loss (3) – Observer
  17.  Run all existing routes (3) –
  18.  Data management (metadata, stand-alone program, other tools) (3) –
  19.  Specific limited experiments by existing volunteers – run route twice, double observers, etc. (2) – Detectability
  20.  Skills assessment (Mexico) (2) – Observer
  21.  Develop library of models, form habitat group to evaluate/coordinate (1) – Habitat
  22. Encourage others to develop higher level of interpretation of trends.  Meaning of trends, BBS data handbook? (1) –
  23.  Does observer experience on route affect data quality? (1) – Observer
  24. Study of use of recordings as a means of running routes where observers are not available (1) – Geographic?


Voting results may be fundamentally skewed given the somewhat arbitrary lumping and splitting of priority issues which may have caused some votes to be wasted on, what may be considered in hindsight, sub-issues of an existing priority.  For example, items 14 and 17 would seem to be sub-issues of item 3; where a properly designed item 3 should inform us as to the necessity of 14 and 17.  Again, items 20, 10, and 6 (Mexico part) would logically follow, or be sub-issues of, item 4. 


Also obtaining “GPS Stop Locations” was identified as the top priority, which surprised many in the group given our discussions over the 2-day workshop.  The voting system employed seems to have captured the most common interest among group participants (having stop locations), rather than the top BBS priority.  Many are interested in having stop location data, but the reasons for having it vary with the individual.

Next Steps



1. Circulate workshop products to group.

2. Capture pertinent flipchart notes.

3. Minutes – Comments due by December 15

4. Start writing strategic plan

          a. Charles Francis and Ricky Dunn – 1st draft

          b. Connie, Dave, Keith, Marshall – 1st review

          c. Review by Strategic Plan workshop participants & other identified stakeholders

          d. Open review

          e. Final report


5. Strategic Plan will be a trilateral document (parts relevant or differently prioritized for a single country should be flagged.)


6. Annual partners meeting to provide guidance/evaluation


7. Need to discuss formal research unit/team tied to BBS – flexible membership yet institutionalized in some way.


8. Working Groups (ad hoc)


          Habitat – Neal Niemuth, Wayne Thogmartin, Andy Royle (others?)


          Detectability – Ted Simons, John Sauer, Charles Francis, Andy Royle (others?)

Appendix A. Workshop Participants and Contact Information


Name                           Organization                                                                Telephone Number            Email Address

1. Humberto Berlanga    Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and       52-55-5528-9176  

                                    Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) / NABCI             

2. Connie Downes         Canadian Wildlife Service                                              613-998-0490      

3. Paul Dresler              USGS Status & Trends Program                                     703-648-4114      

4. Erica Dunn                Canadian Wildlife Service / PIF                                      613-998-7356      

5. Charles Francis         Canadian Wildlife Service                                              613-998-0332      

6. Michael Green           USFWS Non-game Migratory Bird Coordinator (Reg. 1)   503-972-2707      

7. Marshall Howe           USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                        301-497-5858      

8. Eduardo Inigo            Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology                                    607-254-2120      

9. Neal Niemuth             USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team  701-355-8542      

10. Keith Pardieck         USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                        301-497-5843      

11. Andy Royle              USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                        301-497-5846      

12. John Sauer             USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                        301-497-5662      

13. Todd Schneider       Georgia Department of Natural Resources                       478-994-1438      

14. Ted Simons             North Carolina State Univ./USGS Coop. Research Unit     919-515-2689      

15. Wayne Thogmartin   USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center       608-781-6309      

16. Tom Will                  USFWS Non-game Migratory Bird Coord (Reg. 3) / PIF   612-713-5362      

17. Sandy Williams        New Mexico Department of Game and Fish                      505-247-3731      

18. Dave Ziolkowski, Jr. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                        301-497-5753      

Appendix B.  List of Individual Participant Goals and Objectives


Workshop participants were asked to state their individual objectives and goals for this

Meeting.  They were:

-        maximize BBS data credibility

-        develop 5-year plan with concrete objectives and strategies

-        set priorities for future / ensure clear focus on priority setting

-        discuss the direction of the BBS over the next 40 years

-        Strengthen and potentially change the BBS

-        Help move strategic planning process along / help group make decisions

-        Ensure BBS has resources to meet objectives

-        Discuss how to tap into funding

-        Build better relationships between BBS and conservation community

-        Ensure plan buy-in from stakeholders

-        Better understand the BBS

-        Give Canadian BBS and conservation perspectives

-        Ensure Mexican BBS collaboration and connect CONABIO to common concerns

-        See how my piece (i.e., research or conservation interests) fits into BBS plan

-        Represent operational aspects of BBS

-        Provide guidance

-        Ensure that spatial aspects of data are represented

-        Ensure data is applied for conservation purposes

-        Market BBS better

-        Not offend people

-        Not take offense

-        Work together


Appendix C. BBS Vision Exercise and Discussion Elements


Vision Themes

-        Partners working together to efficiently implement survey

-        Improve science

-        Improve image of BBS / Raise public awareness of program

-        BBS in Mexico

-        Data is used by conservation community

-        Program evolving to meet future needs

-        Funding is adequate to meet objectives


          Blue Team:

-        BBS world-renowned as avian monitoring flagship and widely recognized for scientific integrity

-        Program will have closer ties regional conservation initiatives that influence local management (e.g., Joint Ventures and BCRs)

-        Scientific integrity of BBS strengthened by implementation of bias reduction practices

-        Success of BBS tied to specific quantifiable measures (e.g., 4100 routes completed by 3600 observers annually, the data from which provides useable trends for 420 species)


          Green Team:

-        BBS fully creditable to scientists and public

-        Data and trends widely accessed via beautiful and functional analysis portal

-        Allows identification of landscapes for conservation concern

-        Functional BBS Network

-        Provides more information on causes of annual variation in bird numbers

-        Improve geographic coverage by filling gaps and expanding into Mexico

-        See that all routes are run annually


Yellow Team:

-        Credibility of the data with respect to potential biases is greatly enhanced

-        Base funding is commensurate with operational and research needs

-        Data are incorporated into conservation planning and evaluation

-        BBS sets standard for large scale, long term avian monitoring by combining best science with grass roots public participation


Red Team:

-        BBS has been demonstrated, and is accepted, as reliable indication of change in bird populations

-        Results are being used for decision-making and conservation

-        BBS data and ancillary information being used to answer research questions

-        BBS implemented in Mexico and has generated high level of involvement

-        Program is well funded and maintained

-        Program evolving to meet future needs


Appendix D.  Increasing Observer Quality/Recruitment Issues Group Discussion


Hearing Loss-

     *With nearly ¾ of observers over the age of 45, hearing loss may be significantly           affecting the quality of BBS data.

     *Is this age spread the consistent ‘age profile of the BBS’ or is it a cohort of           observers moving through time?  If it is the former – hearing loss may be a huge   issue in the future.

     *More than 45% of “retiring” observers recognize hearing loss as their primary           reason for leaving the BBS suggesting the possibility of significantly cutting           observer attrition if hearing aides are determined appropriate.

Skill Changes-

     *Detection probability would be expected to increase in most cases (from a skills           perspective) as observers become more experienced both as birders and with           their routes in particular.  This is a difficult variable to account for on a broad level    and consideration of ameliorating the phenomenon seems futile.

Equipment Availability-

     *Mexican observers may not have the equipment available for use that US and           Canadian observers do.

ID Abilities In The Community At Large-

     *The average level of observer knowledge is likely higher today than in previous           decades, when far fewer education resources were available.  Therefore,           detection probabilities (from a skills perspective) are likely higher today than in           the earlier years of the survey.  What affect has this had on trend interpretation?

Turnover/Observer Experience On Routes-

     *Younger observes (college students, etc.) can rarely make a long term

          commitment to the route and so are often discriminated against by coordinators

          seeking a more long-term presence.

     *Less than ¼ of observers are under the age of 45.


     *We are not trying to train observers from ‘off the street’.

     *More than 90% of observers have been birding for more than a decade –           representing a mixture of training that would be hard for us to provide.

     *There are other, more comprehensive education tools out there.

     *Any of the following programs would likely require a corresponding education tool.


     *Track the quality (skills, hearing, etc.) of our observers for analytical consideration.


     *Establish minimum observer quality standards (regards skills, hearing, etc.).

     *This may be necessary for the data to be considered legally defensible.

Appendix E.  Addressing Bias in Detection Probability Group Discussion


Sources of Bias:

-        Majority of birds detected by song

o      Bystrak: 70% detected by song

o      Does this vary a lot among routes?

-        Issues that arise:

o      Changes in singing rate with season and time of day and weather and all sorts of other things

§       Concern is systematic change over time

§       Annual effects

o      Detection change from:

§       Increasing background noise

§       Observer change (hearing loss, etc.)

·       Multi-year start-up effects

·       Declines later on

§       Systematic increase in background noise

§       Systematic increase/decrease with vegetation



-        implementing detection probabilities on a subset of routes

-        Will only likely be useful for some species

-        Need to do some, to find out how it will work


Design issues:

-        intervals and how to deal with them in context of 3 minute count


Spatial/Temporal implementation?

-        what percentage of routes?

-        What percentage of stops?


Develop pilot work to determine ways this could be done operationally:

-        done by observers?

-        Measure background noise on routes

-        Technology options – recording technology



-        measuring background noises on routes

-        hand-held sound meter ($150 dollars) – allows point estimates

-        or recording? (sophisticated)


How is detectability influenced by habitat?

-        may help with on-road, off road stuff


Ted Simons:

-        all work done with leaf-off in winter

-        intended to repeat last month, but didn’t happen

-        started making expts very realistic, but then started dealing with subsets

-        Future experiments:

o      May help with training

o      Can teach people interested in this topic about how well they do.


Talked with Arch McCallum and others at Cornell

-        using the playback system to calibrate their system



1 – Start to implement specific approaches in an operational context on a subset of actual routes.

- objective is to determine what is feasible

- pay people to run specific protocols (e.g. 2-3 runs per year)

- Select a subset of routes in a sample of BCRs

- re-run those routes twice and try double observer effects


          Questions: what is toolbox to consider?

          1 – distance sampling does not seem practical or useful (Simons research)

          2 – replicate surveys – run a subset of routes multiple times

          3 – perhaps also incorporate “removal” methods or related factors

- double/observer & removal may be preferable methodologically


1 – Continue research into sources of bias and potential ways to address them



-        ask a subset of volunteers to run routes twice

-        ask a subset of volunteers to run route at same time

-        paid version – hire people to do this.


1. Select a subset of routes and start to implement some appropriate approaches using (under-) paid crews

        e.g. running routes twice

        “removal” method approaches