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Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Launches This Spring!

Loggerhead shrike at Disney Wildlife preserve

Loggerhead Shrike. Photo by Bob Schamerhorn.

Season one of the Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) launches this spring as part of a 5-year study to document the breeding status and distribution of all bird species that spend their spring and summers in Virginia.  This project is a mammoth collaboration between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the Virginia Society of Ornithology, bird clubs, Virginia Master Naturalists, and other citizen scientist volunteers who will be in the field surveying over the next 5 years.  A statewide network of volunteers is needed to collect breeding evidence, so please join us! We need all hands on deck and out watching birds!

In the first Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, volunteers collected breeding bird information from 1984-1989.  They confirmed that 196 bird species were breeding in Virginia and state biologists were able to generate distribution maps showing were these species were occurring around the state.  Data collected now for the VABBA2 project will allow researchers and managers to assess how changes to Virginia’s landscape has affected bird populations over the last 30 years.  This information is critical for identifying the bird species or habitats most in need of conservation efforts.

This project is founded on the principle that nature and its conservation are the responsibility of all people.  Citizen science is a powerful tool for generating ecological data that informs conservation and management of our natural resources, but it also provides a way for any person to get involved with conservation science in their local area.  We hope that birders, naturalists, and anyone with an interest in environmental conservation work will consider volunteering their time to the VABBA2.  We will do our best to ensure that all interested people can play a role in this exciting and important bird conservation project.

How to Participate

If you are interested in participating, please check out the VABBA2 website. There you can learn everything you need to know about how to get started and can download project materials, including an atlas handbook.  Additional information and tutorials are provided on the VABBA2 eBird webpage, which is where participants will go to enter their species observations and breeding data.

The VABBA2 project partnered with folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the organization responsible for eBird, to generate our own eBird data entry portal .  This portal, which launched in early March, allows volunteers to easily enter their own data, which is then immediately available for others to view.  For those already familiar with eBird , the only difference with the VABBA2 portal is that users include breeding evidence in their species checklists.  Volunteers use a series of breeding codes to classify different types of breeding behaviors that they may observe in the field, e.g. a singing male or nest building.

To sign-up as an official VABBA2 volunteer, please visit our VABBA2 Map Explorer tool.  Virginia has 12 atlas regions and each of these has a local Regional Coordinator to answer questions on protocols and generally help guide volunteers.  Contact information for Regional Coordinators and details about sign-up can be found on the VABBA2 website.

The VABBA2 launches officially at the VSO Annual Meeting in Roanoke (April 29-May 1st).  Please join us to learn more about the VABBA2 and other exciting bird conservation work going on around the state.  If you can’t attend the meeting, be sure to check out all of the online resources and feel free to contact your local Regional Coordinator with any questions you may have.  We’re excited to work with Virginians on this important conservation initiative.  Let’s get birding!

  • April 7, 2016