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Atlaser Spotlight: Douglas Kibbe

By Carrie Becker September 3, 2017
Doug in Idalia 2

The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II is a volunteer-driven effort to survey the distribution and abundance of our state’s breeding birds. Since the project started in 2015, our volunteer team has grown to include more than 1,425 atlasers who have submitted nearly 87,500 checklists.

The Atlas couldn’t happen without its volunteers. Our dedicated crew hail from all parts of the state, and a handful of birders—this month’s spotlight Douglas Kibbe included—even travel cross-country to pitch in. This series turns the spotlight on a few of the many dedicated men and women who have helped the Atlas achieve such tremendous success to date.

Douglas Kibbe

Originally Vermont, but now Littleton, Colorado


Number of years birding:

Other citizen science experience:
Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, advisor, co-editor and co-author
New York Breeding Bird Atlas, regional coordinator
New Jersey Breeding Bird Atlas
Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas
Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas
Tennessee Breeding Bird Atlas
Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, regional coordinator, coauthor
Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas
Pawnee National Grassland Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, and raptor nest surveys 2009-present
Instructor for Denver Audubon Master Birder Program

Favorite bird:
The next new one I see.

Douglas Kibbe has worked on eight breeding bird atlases prior to WBBA II. He’s been called an “atlas junkie,” though he prefers the term “atlas addict.”

Motivation to Atlas:
I was the American Birds Regional Editor when the Vermont Institute of Natural Science began an atlas in 1975. At their request, I served as advisor and co-editor of the Vermont atlas, which was the first one completed and published in North America. In 1981, I co-organized the Northeastern Breeding Bird Atlas Conference, and in 1982, I co-authored a paper in American Birds entitled “Atlasing the distribution of the breeding birds of North America.”

After completing the Vermont atlas I assisted several other states on their atlas projects. While working on the Colorado atlas, my partner, Mackenzie Goldthwait, and I completed 125 atlas blocks. In Colorado, I have been referred to as the “atlas junkie” (although “atlas addict” is my preferred term). At loose ends when the Colorado atlas ended, we decided to assist on the Minnesota atlas, then in its final year.

My decision to assist in the Wisconsin atlas was motivated by my past association with Noel Cutright, who was a friend and fellow graduate student at Cornell. I had encouraged Noel when he initiated the first Wisconsin atlas, and when he passed away just before the second atlas commenced, I decided that a fitting memorial would be for Mackenzie and me to contribute our time and effort towards the second Wisconsin breeding bird atlas.

Primary atlasing location:
Thus far we have worked in over twenty blocks in at least four counties.

Most exciting Atlas find:
New species in areas where they were not found during the first atlas project. An example was just last year when I found a Grasshopper Sparrow along the eastern side of the county in an area where I thought I’d never find one. Another was confirming Dickcissel as breeding in an area west of Wausau.

Most rewarding part of Atlasing:
I find atlasing to be a challenging, rewarding and educational endeavor. It forces the observer to watch carefully and interpret bird behavior and habitat relationships. Consequently, atlasers consistently tell me that they learned more in a day of atlasing than they had in years of simple listing.

Advice for someone “on the fence” about participating:
All those still hesitant about their ability to contribute should team with an experienced atlas worker and join the fun. The benefits are many, both to the participant and to future generations who will view the atlas.