How Does the Atlas Work?
The Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas is a scientifically
designed, five-year project to assess the status, distribution and abundance of
bird species that breed within Manitoba. Data collection for this Atlas begins
in 2010 and continues through 2014. Pivotal to atlas success is the
participation of large numbers of volunteer birdwatchers that contribute their
time and skills by gathering data. Breeding Bird Atlases have been produced in
many European countries and throughout North America. Some jurisdictions have
completed two or more breeding bird atlases. This will be our first in Manitoba.
Atlases typically are repeated every 20 years to document
changes in bird distribution that may reflect changes in forestry, agriculture,
urban expansion, climate change, natural disasters, bird feeding, other natural
or man-made forces, and ultimately ecosystem health. The Manitoba Breeding Bird
Atlas will help establish a baseline against which future change can be
compared. The Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas will produce the most comprehensive
dataset ever assembled in this province.
Some people may think of an atlas as a book, but a breeding
bird atlas is much more than that. The Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas will be a
living document and a legacy for all Manitobans. Over the course of the next
five years, the various data pages of this website will be constantly updated as
we receive more and more data from volunteers. The maps that will be displayed
on this web page will be interactive, allowing you to view a specific region or
square or the province-wide results for any given species. After completion of
data collection, we will publish bilingual printed editions of the atlas. These
editions will include various spatial analyses and refined abundance estimates.
The data themselves will be stored in a complete and fully-searchable database
containing details of specific observations that will be available for use by
scientists, environmental assessors, biologists, municipal planners, students
How Do You “Atlas” for Birds?
The first, and most basic bird atlassing method, called
"general atlassing", consists of finding evidence of breeding for as many
species as possible in a 10km x 10km square. For example, singing birds in
their breeding habitat in their breeding season are recorded as "possible"
breeders; pairs of birds, agitated or displaying birds are "probable" breeders;
and nests, distraction displays or fledged young are recorded as "confirmed"
breeding. These data provide information on the distribution of birds
The second bird sampling method is called point counting.
This method is used to estimate the relative abundance of bird species in
different squares to give a picture of where the populations of each species are
concentrated. Collecting abundance data will be optional for atlassers, but
will be encouraged for experienced birders, provided they can identify most
birds in their area by song.
The third sampling method involves collecting more precise
documentation of the breeding sites of rare species and colonial species.
Participants will be encouraged to fill out nest record cards with detailed
information for any nests they find. However, particular emphasis will be placed
on species that are either rare in Manitoba or regionally rare, as well as
species such as American White Pelican and Snow Geese that nest in colonies.
Details of breeding locations and the size of colonies will be requested on
special data forms. Data resulting from all of these atlassing methods will be
submitted to the Atlas staff either on scannable data forms, or via the
website. Data will be checked for errors, and then made available through
interactive maps and web pages.
When registering for the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas,
please consider your skill level. Most observers will focus on general atlassing.
This is fun and easy to do! If you are uncertain of the identification of a
particular bird you can seek assistance or submit photographs. To help you judge
the level of commitment necessary, we ask that you complete 20 hours of general
atlassing over the five-year period (2010 - 2014) for each atlassing square that
you sign up for.
Monitoring the ecosystem in your area makes you part of a
broader community seeking to be informed about the environment and actively
involved in conservation and management. Thank you for caring!