3rd PA Bird Atlas Has Fledged!

Join and discover a new world of birding

Posted on February 15, 2024 in General

Birders of all ages and skill levels are joining forces across the state as part of the monumental effort to map the breeding and wintering status of bird species in Pennsylvania. The project, supported by the PA Game Commission (PGC), headquartered at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and driven by the Cornell Lab’s powerful eBird online tools, is a five-year-long survey that will end February 2029. The PGC initiated this 3rd PA Bird Atlas to update the information they need to prioritize conservation actions and to protect the birds of Pennsylvania. Findings will guide conservation for years to come.

A handy volunteer handbook, “Quick Start Guide,” and detailed instructions on how to use the eBird app for this citizen science project, are all available at https://ebird.org/atlaspa/home, or other birding sites. 

The first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas dates to the mid-late 1980s and the 2nd was completed in 2009. In addition to updating the status of breeding birds across the state, this 3rd atlas will add a new survey of wintering birds starting in December 2024. The atlas effort for some early nesting birds has already begun, for instance, recording rock pigeon, great-horned and barred owl, and house sparrow. Other early-season breeders that will begin nesting within the next six weeks include short-eared owl, red-bellied, downy, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers, common raven, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, and northern cardinal.

The colossal effort is organized by Atlas Coordinator Amber Wiewel who reports to Hawk Mountain’s Director of Conservation Science Dr. Laurie Goodrich, an Atlas Steering and Advisory Groups. In addition to Goodrich, the steering group includes PGC Ornithologist Sean Murphy, Gettysburg College Professor and Ornithologist Andy Wilson, and retired PGC ornithologist Dan Brauning. Advisory Group members include birders from across the state. Key supporters of the Atlas include the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology which provided a small grant in 2023 and PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources which is providing point count teams key access in state parks.

The great news is that anyone can participate, and anyone can bird anywhere. Simply enter your observations through the Pennsylvania Bird Atlas portal in eBird using your computer or smart phone app. Each county has a county compiler that can help birdwatchers with questions. For a list of contacts by county, visit the PA Bird Atlas webpage and click “Atlas Team.”

“If this sounds complicated, trust me, it’s not,” says Amber Wiewel. “The Bird Atlas Page has so many resources, and we also have videos that show step-by-step how to use the app.”

Wiewel also is presenting online and in-person seminars, including two at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary: A birding walk on April 20, 2024, and a presentation on the Winter Atlas on November 16, 2024.

To learn more or participate in the 3rd PA Bird Atlas, visit https://ebird.org/atlaspa/home, google “PA Bird Atlas,” or look under “Science” at www.hawkmountain.org.