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The New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas Project

Introduction


WHAT IS A BREEDING BIRD ATLAS PROJECT?
A breeding bird atlas project is a survey to record the current status and distribution of each breeding bird species. Typically atlas projects cover large areas such as counties, states, or provinces. During atlas fieldwork, nesting observations, habitat associations, relative abundances, and other natural history information are recorded. Information is collected over four to eight years and provides a "snapshot" of breeding bird ranges against which to judge future changes. The final product is typically a hardbound book available to the public with maps and natural history information for each species. Information from the atlas fieldwork is also organized into a computer database as a reference for land managers and biologists who are interested in proposed land-use changes.
WHICH STATES HAVE BREEDING BIRD ATLAS PROJECTS?
Over 40 atlases have been completed or are underway in North America. Colorado published its breeding bird atlas in 1998. Oklahoma completed its forth year of fieldwork in 2000. Nevada and Arizona completed all fieldwork for their atlases in 2000. Breeding bird atlas work is so valuable that several northeastern states are planning the second round of atlas work to draw comparisons and conclusions about changes in bird distributions. New York State started its second atlas in the spring of 2000.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE A BREEDING BIRD ATLAS?
An atlas project is a monumental task in organizing volunteers and handling information. Volunteers are the backbone of most breeding bird atlas projects. For example, Michigan's atlas, published in 1991, used 1,300 volunteers and collected more than 500,000 records. Pennsylvania's atlas, published, in 1992 used approximately 2,000 volunteers who contributed over 83,000 hours to record 318,660 records. Colorado's atlas used 1,170 volunteers who contributed 73,486 hours and 86,499 records.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF NEW MEXICO'S BREEDING BIRD ATLAS?
Initial planning for New Mexico's atlas started in 1999. In the spring of 2000, The New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas Project was established as a not-for-profit New Mexico corporation with an eight-person board of directors. The 2000 breeding bird season was a trial year and used 21 volunteers to test field and computer methods. The project is seeking at least 75 volunteers in 2001.

HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE?
The New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas Project needs volunteers. You can participate either by surveying an atlas block or collecting "out-of-block observations." To survey an atlas block you must visit an assigned area, produce a comprehensive species list, and confirm breeding of at least 50% of the potential breeding bird species. This requires about 20-30 hours of careful bird watching and listening during several visits at different times within the breeding season. Most blocks in New Mexico are in rural or forested areas, so be prepared to travel. The atlas project will supply you with maps, field observation cards, and an atlas handbook. You will also be given the name and phone number of a regional organizer to contact with your questions and with whom to review methods and results. (For more information on volunteering, please visit the Volunteers Needed page.)

To become an atlas volunteer, please contact:

Stephen Fettig at 505-662-6785 (osprey@cybermesa.com) or Jim Place at 505-883-1253 (abqjplace@aol.com).



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