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Largest Provincial Citizen Science Effort Underway to Help Birds and Biodiversity in Ontario

Media release

Tree swallows © Grant Davis, Birds Canada

April 19, 2023, Port Rowan, Ontario – Birds Canada and partners are launching the third season of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 project (Atlas-3), the largest province-wide Citizen Science effort which surveys all species breeding in Ontario. Volunteer birders, of all skill-levels, can help collect critical data to inform conservation actions to better protect birds and biodiversity.

The Atlas runs for five years, and only happens once every two decades. Ontario successfully accomplished Atlas-1 (1981–1985), the first standardized survey of its kind in Canada, leading to a historic detailed account of nearly 300 species’ breeding evidence, including six new confirmed breeding species: Cinnamon Teal, Canvasback, Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Shrike, Harris’ Sparrow, and Snow Bunting.

Atlassing Photo: Natasha Barlow, Birds Canada

Atlassing © Natasha Barlow, Birds Canada

Atlas-2 (2001–2005) was the first in North America to conduct point counts – a tally of birds detected by sight and sound by a single birder at a fixed location and time. Data from over 60,000 point counts permitted the mapping of relative abundance for 120 species and has helped focus conservation efforts on the most crucial areas of Ontario. The project also added eight new confirmed breeding species, including Eared Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, and the Hoary Redpoll.

There are three billion fewer birds in North America today than in 1970. Threats include a terrible mix of habitat loss, domestic cat predation, climate change, pesticide use, and more. Birds are sounding the alarm for nature more broadly. Throughout Atlas-3, over 1,200 concerned Citizen Science volunteers across the province have already submitted observations of breeding bird evidence, but there are still large coverage gaps. The critical data submitted to the Atlas is used extensively by provincial and federal governments, among many other sectors, to conduct status assessments, adapt species at risk listings, have accurate population numbers, and inform policy decisions to ensure Ontario continues to host healthy and thriving ecosystems for generations to come.

The Atlas documents breeding birds throughout the entire province, which can only be done with the help of volunteers. To connect new ‘atlassers’ with others from across the province, provide hands-on training from experts, and share how these data will impact conservation decisions for years to come, Atlas HQ is hosting events across Earth Day weekend, April 22 – 23. Register now to join these events and consider joining the Atlas today to help us help birds!

Bald eagle Photo: Yousif Attia, Birds Canada

Bald eagle © Yousif Attia, Birds Canada

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas is a partnership between Birds Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment and Climate Change Canada), Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO), Ontario Nature, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry – Government of Ontario.

Learn more about the Atlas and how the data is used online: birdsontario.org/storymap.


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Sora Photo: Yousif Attia, Birds Canada

Sora © Yousif Attia, Birds Canada