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Bird Studies Canada undergoing major data-push to eBird!

By erondel March 2, 2017
Dark-eyed Junco Ron Ridout

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the boreal breeding species most often detected on Atlas point counts. Photo: Ron Ridout

eBird’s information about northern Canada’s birds is about to get a whole lot better! Bird Studies Canada (BSC) is beginning to push its extensive Boreal Forest point count data set into eBird. This process has already started with point counts collected during the 2nd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. So far, roughly 590,000 records (63,000 point counts) have been uploaded but this is just the beginning of a much larger national effort!  In the weeks and months to come, BSC will be pushing breeding records into eBird from various provincial atlases, including those from British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and the Maritimes.  These records will fill crucial gaps in the eBird dataset, including much needed coverage for northern regions that don’t get a lot of birder-based action. This data set will be an amazing asset to birders but it will also inform a more complete ecological understanding of one of the most crucial bird habitats on the planet.  Boreal forests sustain breeding populations of many resident and migrant species: 80% of the waterfowl species of North America, 63% of the finch species, and 53% of warbler species breed in the boreal.

A typical boreal checklist from the 2nd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas

One of the most important ways that these data can augment our understanding of boreal birds is to improve the STEM maps (Spatio-temporal Exploratory Model) for the boreal forest regions of Canada. STEM maps use complete eBird checklists and map each checklist location with information on habitat, climate, human population, and demographics to make predictions at unsampled locations and times.

eBird map showing part of the breeding distribution of the Dark-eyed Junco


The STEM map for the boreal-breeding Blackpoll Warbler currently only includes the Lower 48 United States

Using STEM maps, we can reveal the full annual life cycles of many species and showcase the power of eBird – year-round, continental-scale monitoring of all species. STEM models require massive volumes of information to be accurate though, which is why to date, existing maps have shown only the Lower 48 United States (see example of the Blackpoll Warbler above, a boreal breeder bird whose nesting period is currently not included in its STEM map). Adding valuable information about the crucial boreal breeding season will improve the ability of STEM to truly reveal the full life cycle of many species. Thanks especially to Denis Lepage at BSC for his help with this process!