/ Community Engagement,

North Carolina Launches the First-Ever NC Bird Atlas! You Can Participate.

Barred owl. Photo by Sara Jackson.


Beginning this spring, North Carolina embarks on it’s first-ever Bird Atlas! The NC Bird Atlas is a 5-year state-wide community science project that relies on volunteers to map the distribution and abundance of birds from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks.

Everyone can participate in the Atlas. “Atlasing” is similar to birdwatching, except that participants are asked to take the time to watch individual birds closely and make note of their behaviors through the year. For example, an observer watching a Carolina Wren might take note of whether the bird is singing, or perhaps gathering twigs and leaves in its beak to build a nest.

This past year has allowed more people than ever before the opportunity to spend more time outdoors to enjoy and pay attention to the natural world, especially birds. The Atlas is a great opportunity for people to deepen their knowledge of birds, have fun outdoors, and contribute to this important research project that will provide a better understanding of birds in the state and what needs to be done to protect them.

Bird atlases are large-scale, standardized surveys and have taken place in states across the country since the 1970s. The Bird Atlas will divide the state into 937 “blocks”, each roughly 10 square miles. Working with regional coordinators, volunteer observers will fan out across each block over the course of the year, recording the birds and bird behaviors they see.

Volunteers are asked to sign up for a priority block and spend at least 20 hours surveying during the breeding season and 10 hours during the wintering season, with two nocturnal visits during each season. While surveying the block, all birds observed and heard should be recorded. Trips should be limited to one-mile or less and one hour or less. All data is submitted through eBird, an easy-to-use online database of crowd-sourced bird observations.

This project comes at an important time for bird conservation. A recent study published in the journal Science found a steady decline of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities.

Gathering observations through the North Carolina Bird Atlas helps researchers gain a more comprehensive picture of bird populations across North Carolina. Ultimately, the data help state wildlife officials, land managers, and conservation organizations make important conservation decisions.

Organizers are encouraging bird enthusiasts of all experience levels to get involved by visiting ebird.org/atlasnc/home and signing up for updates.

Conserving Carolina is one of three regional coordinators for the NC Bird Atlas, serving Region 9, and will be glad to provide more information, instruction, and assistance to begin participating and throughout the survey year.  Contact Pam Torlina at [email protected] for more information.

Conserving Carolina, your local land trust, works to protect, restore, and inspire appreciation of nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.