Bird Census Techniques

Between all the talk of adding wind turbines to the landscape and the potential impact of this type of activity on birds and a recent article in the local paper about a report on declining bird species, I have become interested in bird census techniques. It would seem we will need data in our ongoing efforts to protect and even save bird species all around the world so I decided to look into this topic and write about it today.

I did some research and found an excellent book on this subject - "Bird Census Techniques" (Second Edition) by Colin J. Bibby. The general thrust of this book is given in the preface:

"The first edition of this book was conceived as a tool to amalgamate text on the various bird counting methodologies and act as a handbook for ornithilogical research...This second edition is offered to professional and amateur researchers, volunteer conservationists, consultant ecologists, and anyone else who is planning to survey and monitor birds but who may lack the facilities to research and understand the bewildering range of modern survey methods."

The book succeeds mightily in achieving these goals. It contains a wealth of information on modern survey methods and has a long list of references should you need even more followup information.

 The book has chapters devoted to all of the techniques such as: 
  • Territory Mapping,
  • Line Transects,
  • Point Counts and Point Transects,
  • Catching and Marking,
  • Distribution Studies, and
  • Counting Individual Species

I thought the last chapter, entitled Description and Measurement of Bird Habitat was particularly interesting. The understanding of habitat preferences, in great detail, is one thing that will likely help conservationists protect and save bird and animal species. To that end bird count/habitat data is I am sure being collected, and will continue to be collected, using the techniques described in this book.

At the very end, Bibby discuss a radio telemetry project entitled "Radio-marked Woodcock feeding in woodlands and fields". The results of this study show that Woodcocks strongly prefer feeding in the midst of a certain type of vegetation (Dog's Mercury). They also prefer a certain soil pH (6.3) Both of these characteristics are most likely correlated to larger earthworm populations, which is their favorite food. Specific data like this can help people both find suitable habitat for endangered birds (e.g. the Important Bird Areas program), and also manage these habitats so as to optimize populations of these birds.

We will likely need more of the "volunteer conservationists" mentioned above in the book's preface, and this book is an excellent way to begin learning about bird census techniques. I highly recommend it if you are interested in this topic.

Autumn Colors, New Hampshire


  1. inexpensive, good book; i use it; also, the ecol. of bird communities by john wiens

    he compares the efficacy of spot-mapping versus fixed-width transects versus variable-width transects versus VCP- variable circular plot methods. very good read for RESIDENT BIRD COUNTS, THE WINTER BIRD POPS. SURVEY and BREEDING BIRD CENSUS, JIM LOWE, CORNELL, 1-800-843-BIRD, AND PUBLISHED IN BIRD POPULATIONS,

    the Marchant paper on the COMMON BIRD CENSUS in britain, no longer run, is good, too...john wiens is an avian community ecologist, the best in the world as thought by many,now senior scientist for the nature conservancy...find these two vols. on google books and amazon, and please include it in your library, though expensive a little. thanx for your post on birdchat, and nice blog (i'll bookmark it), and bird on!



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Strikingly Beautiful Birds - Falcons

Book Review - BETTER BIRDING: Tips, Tools, & Concepts for the Field

"Coming home to a place he'd never been before"