History & Goals


Number of species recorded in each atlas block during the second atlas from 2000-2005.

Breeding bird atlases are designed to survey all the birds breeding within a specific area over a limited time. The first such atlas was undertaken in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Atlases have since become one of the most important tools to assess the status of breeding birds across the globe. The USGS provides a (slightly outdated) list of bird atlases conducted in the US and Canada. The first atlas in New York was conducted from 1980-1985. The second atlas was conducted twenty years later from 2000-2005. Starting in 2020, New York will be among the first states in the US to conduct a third atlas.

The Importance of Another Atlas

Conducting an atlas is a huge and costly effort, but atlases are incredibly valuable for conservation planning. The first two bird atlases have been the definitive resources used by New York state agencies and conservation organizations to assist in planning efforts and assessing the status of species. Some surprising differences were found between the first two atlases, like the northward expansion of Black Vultures and the southward expansion of Merlin. Species like the Red-bellied Woodpecker moved north due to climate change and other factors, while others like Loggerhead Shrike were lost because of habitat changes. Twenty years have passed since the last atlas and a lot has changed. How far have Black Vultures and Fish Crows spread? What new species have moved into the state? Where are the last strongholds for Henslow’s Sparrows and Black Rails? Another atlas will allow us to answer these and many more questions.

Project Goals

The purpose of NY BBA III is to assess the distribution and abundance of the breeding birds of New York State in the period 2020-2024 to allow valid comparisons with prior and future NY BBAs and inform the conservation of birds and their habitats.

Project goals include:

  • Updating statewide distribution information on breeding birds
  • Obtaining a metric of abundance for breeding birds
  • Investigating the habitat relationships of breeding birds
  • Engaging the public