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First VA Breeding Bird Atlas Data!

By Ashley Peele

Species lists and breeding status data are now available for every block surveyed in the first VA Breeding Bird Atlas via the Atlas Block Explorer tool.  This effort took place from 1984-1989, thus nearly 30 years have passed, since these data were collected.  Many changes have occurred across the landscape of Virginia, which highlights why the second VA BBA is so important for regional bird conservation.  The data collected now will be compared with the first Atlas dataset to identify changes in breeding bird distributions across the state.  These distributions can then be overlaid with land-use data to help us better understand how different species of birds have responded to the changing face of Virginia.

Volunteers may be suprised by the species lists for any given Atlas block.  Survey effort varied considerably amongst blocks, which affected how many species were identified and confirmed as breeders.  Additionally, many Atlas blocks have experienced habitat loss or change in the last several decades, which will likely result in a decline in species diversity.  Other blocks may actually have more bird species present today than 30 years ago.  Documenting the nature and location of changes in species distributions is the most important role of our Atlas volunteers.

Whether you’re an active Atlas participant or toying with the idea of getting involved, please check out these new data.  To explore this information for your block(s) or region, just navigate to the Atlas Block Explorer tool.  (

Once there, click on the block you are interested in.  A new window should pop-up.

Lastly, click the ‘Download 1st BBA Species List’ link.  A new window will open with the block data in a PDF document for you to download.

As always, feel free to email your regional or state coordinator with questions about this new tool.  If you’d like to join the Atlas email list-serv to make sure you see new posts and story, just email us at

~Dr. Ashley Peele, State Coordinator – VABBA2

  • April 13, 2017