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Bird Conservation Network: 2014, the Year in Review

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Special to
by Bird Conservation Network

Bird Conservation Network:  2014, the Year in Review    

The BCN Survey completed 17 years of bird monitoring in 2014!  This continuing project recruits volunteer birders to identify and count the Chicago Region breeding birds at numerous sites during the breeding season. 

Monitors follow established scientific protocols, reporting their findings on eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online national database).  Currently, 200 volunteer bird monitors in seven counties in Illinois and northwest Indiana are monitoring at more than 200 sites.  

In early 2014 BCN presented its latest study, Breeding Birds Population Trends of the Chicago Region 1999-2012, based on the data from the large scale monitoring effort that is the BCN Survey.   The report contains the results of a rigorous statistical analysis of breeding bird monitoring data from the Survey. 

There are 125,000 individual observations; almost 300,000 birds of 160 species were counted, at more than 1600 points dotted across 277 sites.  Over the course of the study, volunteer bird monitors spent 10,500 hours doing point counts. Including travel time moving from one monitoring point to the next, the aggregate time spent by this dedicated group  is estimated at 55,000 to 65,000 hours.  This report was funded by BCN’s 2013 Redstart Connection fundraising campaign.

The Trends Analysis was widely publicized to the region’s forest preserve districts, land managers and stewards, bird clubs and conservation organizations, and the general public, and is available at  

This analysis has proven useful to land managers, stewards, ornithologists and restoration specialists.  Dr. Jeff Walk, Director of Science, The Nature Conservancy, Illinois, said,  “The joint BCN report is a terrific example of citizen-scientists generating information that has real conservation value. The fine-scale monitoring and short-term trend data that the dedicated volunteers are able to provide for the Chicago region is remarkable…it is very encouraging to see some species of high conservation concern bucking their longer-term, larger-scale population trends with stability or recent increases in the Chicago Region.”   Dr. Mike Ward, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois and Scientist at the Illinois Natural History survey, specializing in the population dynamics and behavior of birds, commented:  “It is encouraging to see the several species of grassland birds, including Bobolink, Henslow’s Sparrow and Dickcissel, either increasing or holding their own. I would suggest that the great work of many Chicago Wilderness partners in restoring and managing grasslands is allowing these species to persist and potentially increase in the area.”  

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