What is a Bird Atlas?
A bird atlas is typically a citizen-science project to establish a comprehensive list of birds in a particular area and provide information on their distribution.
Most bird atlas surveys are conducted at the state level and collect data only on breeding birds. The Loudoun County Bird Atlas is unique in that the project is county-wide and includes year-round data for both breeding and non-breeding birds.
Birds provide an easy yet powerful way to connect to the natural world. They serve as important indicators of the overall health of our environment. Loudoun’s diverse habitats range from forests and wetlands to suburban parks and agricultural areas. They provide breeding, migratory and wintering sites for a variety of bird species. Loudoun Wildlife will use the Bird Atlas results to identify important bird areas, assist with environmental planning, generate information on species of special concern, guide future conservation activities and serve as a comparison for future atlas surveys.
How did we conduct our Bird Atlas survey?
We divided Loudoun County into a grid of 75 blocks based on sections of U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle maps. Each block is approximately 10 square miles. Atlas volunteers were assigned to different blocks to ensure county-wide coverage.
The volunteers used a field card to collect data on the occurrence and behavior of birds throughout the county. Data processing was handled by BBA (Breeding Bird Atlas) Explorer, an online system hosted by the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Field data was collected from April 2009 through March 2014 and can be found here.
Outcomes of the project
- Birds of Loudoun Checklist. This revised list includes 305 bird species identified in the county through March 2014, with over 120 reported breeders.
- Check out our Bird Atlas Summary Report
- Bird Atlas results have been published in the Virginia Society of Ornithology’s publication,”The Raven,” Volume 87, Issue 1.
- Bird lists for popular birding places throughout Loudoun.
The Birds of Loudoun, a guide based on the Bird Atlas, is now available! The book contains in-depth species accounts, distribution maps, and stunning photographs, along with great places to bird throughout the county and information on which birds are thriving and which need our help the most. View sample species accounts here. You can purchase Birds of Loudoun here. There is an errata page here.
You can find more resources, including the Bird Atlas Handbook and the field card, here. Monthly tips can be found here.
Sound like fun?
The second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas launched in 2016 and will collect data through the 2020 breeding season. The project needs your eyes and ears to help document species in your neighborhoods and special nature spots. Please volunteer for this important effort by checking out their website and signing up for a block.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Bird Atlas Coordinator Spring Ligi at firstname.lastname@example.org.