Calling all birders for final year

By Julie Hart 4 Jan 2024
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor

This article first appeared in New York Birders, a publication of NYSOA.

Atlas Corner: Calling all birders for final year

If you haven’t participated in the Atlas yet, there is still time. It’s fun, educational, and relatively easy. Here’s how to make the biggest impact in 2024—because it’s never too early to start planning!

As of this writing (at the end of July), 27% of Atlas blocks have been marked complete (see latest statewide stats). We made big strides this year, but we have a long way to go in 2024 if we are to meet our goal of having 100% of priority blocks marked complete.

Status of all atlas blocks as of 7/31/23. Black blocks are complete.

Step 1. Decide where to go

One of the fun things about atlasing is exploring new areas. We need people to visit new places so the finished Atlas represents the birds in all parts of the state. In other words, don’t stick to existing eBird hotspots; go out and discover new places!

Find an incomplete block near you using the Atlas Progress Map (complete blocks are marked as a solid black color). The map is continually updated as blocks are reviewed, so check back regularly for updates.

Download block maps to see what roads, habitats, and public land occurs in the block. Go to the interactive mapper (give it a few seconds to load) and type the block name in the sidebar. Download the block maps and print or save to your phone.

Figure out how best to access the block. Some blocks will only be accessible by road, others by trail, and yet others may need special permission. We have landowner letters available for download on the website.

If you need help finding an incomplete block near you, or figuring out how to access a block, please email us at

Step 2. Determine which birds to target

At this stage of the Atlas, we need you to help target gaps in the data. Rather than going birding and just seeing what you see, target specific species that will help the block meet the completion guidelines.

View the data for your chosen block by typing it in the search for Explore Atlas Regions. Then work through this step-by-step guide to figure out what needs to be done to mark this block complete.

Wondering how to target specific species? Check out our many detailed guides and tutorials on YouTube.

Visiting a block with little to no effort? Use this suggested calendar of visits to finish a block in one year.

We are here to help. If you can’t figure out which birds to target, please email your regional coordinator or send an email to

Step 3. Submit your data

It’s easiest to use the eBird app if you have a smartphone, but it is also possible to Atlas using pen and paper. Here are the key things to keep in mind.

Use the Atlas portal. Open the app and go into the settings and find the portal section. Scroll down to New York Breeding Bird Atlas III and select that. Now use eBird like you normally would.

Enter breeding codes. Tap on a species to add breeding codes or add comments. Please don’t overlook the lower codes or “junk” birds. All birds and breeding codes count!

Keep checklists to a single block. Make sure you stop and start a new checklist if you cross block boundaries. (This is easy if using the mobile app.)

Using the eBird app

If you haven’t tried using the eBird mobile app for a while, it’s time to test it out again. Here are a few reasons why you might want to use the eBird app:

      • It’s quick and easy to enter your observations (before you forget something!) and your effort (the time and distance you traveled) is automatically measured for you.
      • You no longer have to worry about crossing block boundaries because there are built-in warnings that let you know when you are about to leave a block.
      • Even when you don’t have cell reception, you can still see your location in the block and receive warnings.
      • You don’t have to hop on the computer when you get home; your data are already entered!

To use the Atlas portal, open the app on your phone. Go into the app settings and find the Portal section. Scroll down and select the New York Breeding Bird Atlas III. Now exit the settings and use eBird like you normally would. Watch the YouTube tutorial.

Using pen and paper

If you are used to atlasing using pen and paper, you don’t need to upgrade to the mobile app. We provide field checklists and block summary cards that you can print out as needed. You can also print out the block maps for use in the field. Then when you get home, you can enter your observations in eBird using the Atlas portal (

When you think a block is complete, please let your regional coordinator know. We will review the block and let you know if something is missing. In the meantime, you can move on to another block!

Final step. Enjoy the adventure

Atlasing is a fun way for birders of all levels to get to know their local birds. You will watch them pair up, build their nests, and raise their young. You’ll laugh at the clumsy fledglings and perhaps even feel a bittersweet pride when they leave in the fall. You’ll learn a lot (about sounds, habitats, diet, nests, and more) without even trying, and you’ll feel more in tune with the season. What’s more, the data collected are critical for protecting and conserving New York’s birds and their habitats. We need everyone’s help to make this project a success and we hope you will join us.

If you have any questions about participating in the atlas, please don’t hesitate to email us at