The Bird Conservation Network has been promoting bird conservation and preserving and restoring bird habitat in the Chicago Region for 15 years. BCN is a coalition of about 18 organizations (bird clubs, Audubon chapters, ornithological societies and conservation organizations) sharing an interest in the conservation of birds. The groups’ members total more than 35,000 people living primarily in the Chicago area, but also throughout Illinois, northeastern Indiana, and southern Wisconsin. BCN’s mission is the conservation of birds and the habitats they need to survive. There is no full time staff; BCN’s board is made up of volunteer representatives from the member groups who carry out the needed work.
Bird monitoring initiatives by citizen scientists have been active in the Chicago region since at least the 1980’s. In the past, a lack of standardized protocols and the daunting task of entering reams of data into digitized files meant that much of the information amassed over the past years remained inaccessible and difficult to analyze.
Standardized protocol for bird monitoring was implemented in a 1998 effort by BCN members with major participation from a group of dedicated birders, scientists, land managers and conservationists. This effort transformed monitoring practices, leading to the establishment of the BCN Survey, which currently (2013) enlists about 170 volunteers in systematic reporting on breeding and migrating birds in natural lands in the Greater Chicago area.
Web publication and quick analysis of this data became a reality in 2001 when Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSource teamed up with BCN and the Field Museum to unveil a new website. In 2003 the database moved to a special BCN version of the eBird website. This move provided easier access to data for research purposes and casual observations, and also allowed monitors to easily enter their sightings at any of the predefined birding hot spots in our tri-state area.
More information about the BCN and the BCN Survey is available at www.bcnbirds.org.