MV Breeding Bird Survey Data


Martha’s Vineyard Breeding Bird Survey

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a collaborative project of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Environment Canada that enlists “community scientists” – in this case, skilled birders – to collect data for the long-term monitoring or North American breeding bird populations. About 4,100 routes, each 24.5 miles long and consisting of 50 predetermined stops, are surveyed for the BBS once each year, early in the morning during a temporal window centered on the avian breeding season. Participants spend precisely three minutes at each stop, recording all birds heard and seen within a quarter-mile radius, before moving on to the next stop. The accompanying spreadsheet presents raw data from the Martha’s Vineyard route; this information was extracted from the BBS website and will be updated as additional years of data become available.

While the numbers tallied on any given route can vary dramatically year to year due to a host of variables, the BBS project as a whole smooths out those local variations by building a huge continental data set. BBS data have proven to be a powerful and reliable way to track changes in bird abundance and distribution.

The Vineyard’s sole BBS route was established in 1996, winding from Lobsterville through Aquinnah via Lighthouse Road and Moshup Trail, along State Road to Chilmark, up the Menemsha Crossroad to North Road, east to State Road in West Tisbury, along State Road to Old County Road, south along Old County Road to the Edgartown/West Tisbury, and then east to the route’s terminus near the airport. Regular coverage of the route began in 2000; the BBS was suspended because of  COVID-19 in 2020, so no data are available for that year.

Note that this table presents all birds recorded during surveys. While most of these birds can be safely presumed to be breeders, some non-breeding birds (lingering migrants or wintering individuals) are detected most years and are included here. Also keep in mind that the number of individuals detected does not equal the number of individuals actually present: the BBS methodology was developed mainly to monitor trends by producing comparable year-to-year results, not to produce precise census numbers. Species may be under- or over-represented in the results, sometimes dramatically, depending on how detectable they are during the surveys, and many individuals and even entire species surely go undetected during the three-minute count periods.

From 2000 through 2022, the same observer — Martha’s Vineyard Atlas of Life Program Director Matt Pelikan — has covered this route, removing one potential source of inconsistency in the data (differing skill levels or sensory acuity among multiple observers). As another effort at consistency, the route is run each year, weather permitting, on the Sunday morning (to minimize interference from automobile traffic noise) closest to June 10. In reviewing or using the data we present here, though, it is important to remember that in addition to bird population size, factors such as the weather when the route is run or the date of the survey relative to the timing of the breeding season that particular year can influence the number of birds present or recorded along the survey route. Therefore, conclusions about local population trends should be drawn with extreme caution from this data set.

Still, these data give a useful and interesting picture of the Vineyard breeding avifauna, including at least a rough sense of relative abundance. And some trends, such as the well-documented regional decline in Wood Thrush numbers or the appearance and then disappearance of Indigo Bunting as a Vineyard breeding species, emerge quite clearly from these survey results. And some other apparent trends, such as a gradual increase in American Redstart numbers, may ring true to experienced Vineyard birders.

The table below is inconveniently large for use on a web page. To simplify viewing, you can type a species name or generic term (e.g., “sparrow” or “warbler”) in the “Search table” window above the table: only rows containing the character string in the search window will display. You can scroll horizontally using the control bar at the bottom of the table. The “Reset Table Order” button above the table will return you to the full set of data.

USGS Breeding Bird Survey Data, Route #47102/Gay Head

Species List19961997199819992000200120022003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018201920202021
Canada Goose0---0011008523011011289271704-4
Wood Duck0---00000000003000000000-0
American Black Duck0---00010000000000000000-0
Black Scoter0---00000000000000100000-0
Northern Bobwhite7---21000030000001001100-0
Wild Turkey4---001110006003122175573-3
Ring-necked Pheasant0---02010104000000000001-0
Mourning Dove78---262318198191616151311131812221613151915-15
Yellow-billed Cuckoo0---00002033110010000022-0
Black-billed Cuckoo0---00010200000001000100-0
Eastern Whip-poor-will0---00000000000000001100-0
Chimney Swift0---00000000000000000100-1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird0---01000010011301000211-0
Black-bellied Plover0---00000000000010000000-0
American Woodcock2---00000000000000000000-0
Herring Gull103---4520923325151120112141127332200-4
Great Black-backed Gull23---230021022301020213112-6
Least Tern0---00000000000004000000-0
Common Tern18---100000600000000018130-0
Common Loon0---10000000000200000000-1
Double-crested Cormorant5---43120202103118010110-2
Great Egret0---00000000010000000000-0
Little Blue Heron0---00000000000000010000-0
Green Heron0---10000000001001000002-0
Black-crowned Night-Heron6---00000000000010001010-0
Turkey Vulture0---00000000000102200031-0
Northern Harrier0---00000001000000000000-0
Cooper's Hawk0---00000100000100000100-2
Red-tailed Hawk0---10100100000011100012-2
Belted Kingfisher0---00010002001000000000-0
Red-bellied Woodpecker3---21634466052443423526-5
Downy Woodpecker9---63973144666668633255-5
Hairy Woodpecker1---02100000000001000000-0
(Yellow-shafted Flicker) Northern Flicker3---13001000101100101001-2
Great Crested Flycatcher2---1452786111168337134568104-10
Eastern Kingbird6---82255755112051434211-0
Eastern Wood-Pewee9---42241266201133243321-3
Alder Flycatcher0---00101000000000000101-0
Willow Flycatcher0---01000110001100100103-2
Eastern Phoebe0---11100022300021000231-2
Red-eyed Vireo24---1214192321182727171113142020352517282134-25
Blue Jay19---2171412715131310641091461149613-8
American Crow56---4021392537345858211537232724293434263120-29
Bank Swallow22---106440100300040404272-0
Tree Swallow8---52650355104932452140-12
Northern Rough-winged Swallow16---00001000000010000000-0
Barn Swallow6---125271314444121392215101814228196-8
Black-capped Chickadee57---2926192949374141423442203919272336282029-40
Tufted Titmouse0---0000002221183315551018-14
Red-breasted Nuthatch0---00000000000010000000-0
White-breasted Nuthatch5---41554233540433124245-1
Brown Creeper0---00000000000100000000-0
House Wren1---00111201332011220222-3
Carolina Wren4---342123171641111991821232112147712-28
Eastern Bluebird1---10000000000000000000-0
Wood Thrush10---47526301122115121110-1
American Robin149---2514203223203232252125292432332749303530-39
Gray Catbird224---6473696766696464475272675274756872756768-57
Brown Thrasher1---02000010110000210000-0
Northern Mockingbird1---31014111200223123301-11
European Starling68---8123116164011101931611299273038-55
Cedar Waxwing14---22813111510212110111814835132088-5
House Sparrow12---1321216112300710621871335413-8
House Finch38---16675648825313158156205410-2
American Goldfinch67---24112022291614142716112625615511478-6
Chipping Sparrow12---10791722213434201113191722182221122715-16
Field Sparrow0---01110000011000001000-0
Savannah Sparrow0---00010200100000000000-0
Song Sparrow65---2830362214182020222323232418271915122124-19
Eastern Towhee144---5746444734413939543440423752434754515139-59
Orchard Oriole0---00001101010200001211-0
Baltimore Oriole3---6143711776112442232636-7
Red-winged Blackbird32---913211117132727151416231726252730223637-32
Brown-headed Cowbird11---184136231333331211755416484135-13
Common Grackle87---202013825728282518188211221121226426-35
Blue-winged Warbler0---01101010000230250100-1
Black-and-white Warbler2---22020130112122122021-0
Common Yellowthroat89---3542434239494646282536284338363343303537-46
American Redstart3---12122144446263457458-8
Northern Parula1---21002344010321213533-7
Yellow Warbler31---2416282017232525152021191931262633212132-23
Pine Warbler6---83598710106894745879106-5
Prairie Warbler13---68724266453222257521-3
Scarlet Tanager1---30311077000211001133-0
Northern Cardinal21---1713162825251717171826132415281510281114-13
Rose-breasted Grosbeak1---00000000000000000000-0
Indigo Bunting0---00000133103010000000-0
Total Species580005353505150545353504551525956545155605656053
Total individuals16130007195276265956215877457225774605615516195706495486746436296400718