Boreal Landbird Monitoring

Reliable monitoring is fundamental to effective management and conservation of avian populations. The BAM Avian and Biophysical Databases were developed, in part, to support these activities and together they have greatly improved our ability to assess the status of boreal landbird species and model species distributions. These databases have also enabled BAM to contribute to the development and improvement of boreal bird monitoring programs more generally by:

  • recommending optimal point count protocols for density estimation (Matsuoka et al. 2011a, 2014), 
  • quantifying the impacts of roadside bias on population size estimates and developing methods to adjust for these biases (Matsuoka et al. 2011b, Sólymos et al. in prep), and
  • improving methods for harmonizing data from automated recording units (ARUs) and human-based surveys so they can be jointly used in analyses.

Despite the extensive database collated by BAM, the data still does not fully represent the environmental variables thought to drive species distribution and habitat use, and temporal replication is lacking in large portions of the boreal forest. These data gaps limit our ability to quantify changes in species status and distribution, and to extrapolate trend analyses to populations of boreal birds (Van Wilgenburg et al. 2015, 2018). Several BAM contributing scientists from the Canadian Wildlife Service (S. Van Wilgenburg, S. Hache, L. Mahon, and J.Toms) are using the BAM Biophysical and Avian Databases to design a national Boreal Monitoring Strategy intended to fill these data gaps and provide reliable estimates of status and trend that meet the information needs of federal legislation involving boreal landbirds.


Figure: Probability of environmental covariates (climate and landcover) being represented within the Boreal Avian Modeling database.

Bibliography of BAM-related work

Matsuoka, S.M., Sólymos, P., Bayne, E.M. and Song, S.J. (2011), Suggestions for Collecting Additional Data during Point Count Surveys Conducted by Paid Breeding Bird Atlas Crews in Canada, Technical Report for Environment Canada, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, available at:

Matsuoka, S.M., Sólymos, P., Fontaine, T. and Bayne, E.M. (2011), Roadside Surveys of Boreal Forest Birds: How Representative Are They and How Can We Improve Current Sampling?, Report to Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, available at:

Matsuoka, S.M., Mahon, C.L., Handel, C.M., Sólymos, P., Bayne, E.M., Fontaine, T., Ralph, C.J., 2014. Reviving common standards in point-count surveys for broad inference across studies. Condor 116, 599–608.

Sólymos, P., Toms, J.D., Matsuoka, S.M., Cumming, S.G., Barker, N.K.S., Thogmartin, W.E., Stralberg, D., Crosby, A.D., Dénes, F.V., Haché, S., Mahon, C.L., Schmiegelow, F.K.A., Bayne, E.M., In revision. At the end of the road: Lessons learned from comparing model- and sample-based approaches to estimate population sizes of boreal birds in Alberta, Canada. Condor.

Stralberg, D., Van Wilgenburg, S.L., Haché, H., Samuel, Toms, J.D., Sólymos, P., Bayne, E.M., Cumming, S.G., Schmiegelow, F.K.A., In preparation. Signals of breeding and wintering weather and forest change in boreal bird population fluctuations. Condor.

Van Wilgenburg, S., Beck, E., Obermayer, B., Joyce, T., Weddle, B., 2015. Biased representation of disturbance rates in the roadside sampling frame in boreal forests: implications for monitoring design. Avian Conservation and Ecology 10.

Van Wilgenburg, S.L., Hobson, K.A., Kardynal, K.J., Beck, E.M., 2018. Temporal changes in avian abundance in aspen-dominated boreal mixedwood forests of central Saskatchewan, Canada. Avian Conserv Ecol 13.