Latest News

2013 State of the Birds Report

The 2013 State of the Birds report draws heavily on eBird data in its analysis of private lands and the important role that they play in landscape-scale bird conservation. Roughly 60% of land in the U.S. (1.8 billion acres) is privately owned and more than 100 bird species have more than half of their distribution on private lands, so protecting birds at a continental scale requires engaging private landowners in bird conservation. These activities are not necessarily at odds with bird conservation and the 2013 highlights ways in which private landowners can be engaged in bird conservation.

Private lands include those held by both individuals and corporations, and the lands are not just private homesteads, but also properties used for agriculture, ranching, forestry, and many other uses. Setting strategic conservation priorities and defining best practices can empower foresters to create forest structure that benefits Cerulean or Golden-winged Warblers or farmers to design an agricultural mosaic that is more beneficial to a suite of declining grassland birds.

All eBird users and supporters are invited to a public webinar on the report on Tuesday afternoon, 16 July 2013. Ken Rosenberg, of the Conservation Science group at the Cornell Lab, will be leading the webinar. Ken has been integral to all four State of the Birds reports, especially so for the recent two that have focused on eBird data. To sign up for this special and rare opportunity, please click here:

State of the Birds Webinar – Tuesday, July 16, 12 PM EDT

After the presentation, Ken will be available to answer questions.

The 2013 State of the Birds Report, as well as past reports, are available via the State of the Birds website. Here you can download and read the report in full. You can also review a gallery of the model results used in the report (but please be sure to understand the metrics and the scale of the images, since these have important implications for their interpretation).

In recent years, eBird’s true vision has become a reality: we think of this as the eBird data cycle. eBird is at its best when each bird observation is used for science, the science is used by the conservation community to better protect birds, and those better-protected birds are then entered back into eBird. In this way, the observations of all of us have tangible benefits for our understanding and our ability to protect the birds that we love. Because of the dense landscape of eBird submissions, the new STEM models have broken new ground in their ability to model year-round species occurrence at the continental scale. This science set the stage for the 2011 State of the Birds report, which focused on the status of birds on public lands and used eBird-based STEM models to better understand this for a suite of terrestrial species. An outgrowth of the State of the Birds reports have been several more detailed analyses by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and The Nature Conservancy, among others. These will be used to set specific management priorities at the local scale, demonstrating the ideal workflow for how your bird observations can be fed back into science and conservation to affect on-the-ground-conservation. It is thus with great pride and excitement that we greet the 2013 State of the Birds report, which again draws heavily on eBird data to model and estimate bird occurrence.

This analysis drew upon the same techniques used for the popular animated year-round occurrence maps that have been highlighted here at eBird. You can find these on the home page by scrolling down the right side content to “occurrence maps”, under the News & Features section. Or just click here. Remember also that you can review the results and dig deeper into the processes on the State of the Birds website by clicking “Bird Distributions on Private Lands” on the left side (or just click here).

Broad-scale regional differences in land ownership are essential to recognize at the outset. The 2011 State of the Birds report highlighted the importance of public lands for birds of deserts and western forests, largely because so much of these habitats are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), respectively. Both of these agencies have worked with scientists at the Cornell Lab to refine recommendations on how to better manage lands, at the local scale, for specific species of concern.

Map of private lands in the U.S. Note the prevalence of private landholdings in the central and eastern U.S.--this is a theme that runs throughout the 2013 State of the Birds Report, especially as it relates to protection of eastern forest, grassland, and wetland species.

Map of private lands in the U.S. Note the prevalence of private landholdings in the central and eastern U.S.–this is a theme that runs throughout the 2013 State of the Birds Report, especially as it relates to protection of eastern forest, grassland, and wetland species.

The 2013 report, in contrast, focuses on private lands, which dominate the landscape in the Great Plains, Midwest, and Eastern U.S. As a result, it is grassland, wetland, and eastern forest species that are more the focus of this report. The figure above shows the private property landscape of the U.S. Note that from about the 100th meridian eastward, the majority of land is private, so protection of birds that occur only in that area depends largely on the stewardship of private landowners. From a conservation perspective, this is critically important, since the tools and strategy for engaging private landholders in bird conservation are very different from those used for public lands. And since these private lands have millions of different stewards, those strategies will need to be more diverse, flexible, and intensive.

Finally, it is critical to acknowledge the significant contributions of private conservation organizations in the mosaic of private lands in the U.S. Large organizations like the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, as well as local land trusts, play a critical role in the conservation of many of the most unique and imperiled areas in the country. Your eBird records are already helping to document the importance of these areas for birds, but please consider how you can help strengthen these connections at a local level. Many land trusts or local conservation groups may not be aware of eBird and how it is already collecting data on their lands. Make sure these sites are hotspots; if they are not already hotspots, please recommend them. Share the bar chart and high count links with the stewards of these lands, work with them to discuss eBird on their website, and let the stewards of these lands know how to access bird information via the Explore Data pages and how to download raw eBird data. We depend on you, the vast eBird community of eBird users and supporters, to share eBird with land managers at all levels and to help them appreciate not only the bird diversity on these lands, but also the tools that eBird provides to explore, download, and analyze the data, and to better implement and assess conservation measures.

Relative proportions of different landholdings by habitat. Clearly, some habitats are best represented by private lands, while others are primarily in the public trust.

Relative proportions of different landholdings by habitat. Clearly, some habitats are best represented by private lands, while others are primarily in the public trust.

To estimate the stewardship responsibility for private lands, the State of the Birds team combined U.S. bird distribution maps from eBird STEM models with the PAD-US (Protected Areas Database of the United States). The STEM models account for data biases due to time of day and effort by correcting bird occurrence for these variables, and then correct for gaps in eBird coverage by predicting occurrence evenly across the landscape by associating occurrence with landscape variables like habitat, climate, elevation, and human population density. By overlaying the bird distribution from these models with the private lands, it was possible to estimate the stewardship responsibility for private landholdings for various suites of species.

Thanks to everyone for your role in this report. The bird observations that you have shared with eBird made this report possible and will continue to help science and conservation into the future.