Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas
History of the Project
The idea of initiating an Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas Project similar to those conducted in other states and countries had been proposed by Wisner (1980) and Vroman (1993) but was met with tepid response by the audience of birders to whom the invitations were first made. In the mid-80s a breeding bird atlas project was conducted in Lane County but the results were never published. In late 1993, a handful of Oregon birders who subscribed to the Internet group, OBOL, began discussing the idea via email and arranged a live meeting for the purpose of establishing a steering committee. Several Oregon birders who at the time did not receive OBOL received a phone invitation to that meeting. The meeting was held in February 1994 in Corvallis, and an agenda and schedule were formulated for initiating the project and for contacting a potential sponsor, Oregon Field Ornithologists. Following the meeting, OFO was contacted and agreed to serve as sponsor. In email correspondence following the February meeting, attendees agreed to adopt the hexagon grid and field card formats on a trial basis during summer 1994. The project was presented publicly for the first time at the June 1994 OFO annual meeting in Ashland, and publicity intensified up until the project began officially in January 1995.
Throughout the projectís history every effort has been made to maintain this as a "grassroots" effort organized and administered by birders. Such a philosophy, we feel, strengthens the sense of investment in and responsibility for avian resources which many birders possess. In contrast to agency-sponsored projects with salaried administrators or paid consultants, an effort guided by highly committed, motivated, and capable volunteers perhaps more effectively strengthens the links among birders within a region and enhances a greater spirit of camaraderie - a spirit that can last long after a project finishes. With these principles and a sense of "build it and they will come" guiding us, we began this project before any funding had been procured. The modest funds we needed for project materials and communications followed eventually.
Similar or Related Projects
This project is the only one ever to systematically collect and compile field data on bird presence and breeding status in every part of Oregon. The projectís name, Breeding Bird Atlas, sounds similar to the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) that is sponsored by the Biological Resources Division (formerly part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) of the U.S. Geological Survey, and which is conducted annually by volunteers throughout North America. However, the BBS covers just a portion of Oregon, focuses just on birds detected at 3-minute counts along standard-length roadside routes, and does not report evidence of breeding. Another similar-sounding effort is the book Atlas of Oregon Wildlife, originally published in 1997 by Blair Csuti and others. That book features range maps of every breeding bird species, and other vertebrates. The maps were based solely on museum specimens (including some very old records), 1:250,000-scale vegetation maps (similar to the ones we used from the ONHP), the ONHP species associations models (which we also used as a starting point for mapping possible habitat of each species), and reviews by two birders. Such sources would not be expected to define current species distributions as accurately as actual observational data.† The Oregon Gap Analysis Project (Kagan et al. 1999) used mostly the same species models and vegetation maps, plus unedited 1995-1998 data from our project, to compile distributional statistics on all vertebrate species in Oregon.† That report did not include species range maps.
Just prior to our project, a book Birds of Oregon (Gilligan et al. 1994) was published. Its descriptions of species distributions within Oregon are quite general and the very few range maps that are included are very small. A more ambitious effort to publish a compilation of literature on Oregon birds, updating the classic treatise of Gabrielson and Jewett (1940), was organized by David Marshall and others in mid-1997, with publication anticipated in a few years. That edited work, tentatively titled Birds of Oregon, A General Reference, will feature species accounts by many Oregon birders and, by agreement with the atlas project steering committee, data and maps from our atlas project.