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By Gregor Beck, Senior Strategist, Birds Canada

While the second season of field work is underway for the third Breeding Bird Atlas project for Ontario, the province’s second atlas (2001-2005) has hit an important landmark. The entire “Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005” is now available digitally on the Atlas website. The Atlas (often referred to by the shorthand “Atlas-2”) has been formatted recently for easy reading and browsing in digital format and will provide ongoing access to the book for countless new and eager readers.

What’s inside Atlas-2?

Atlas-2 includes detailed accounts for the 286 bird species documented through the project by 3417 volunteers, making it the province’s most authoritative resource on birds and bird distribution at the time. The detailed text is supported by more than 900 maps (including both breeding evidence and relative abundance) and over 400 photographs, with additional chapters on topics including changes in bird populations and distribution, results highlights, biogeography, and more.

The book publication

The book version of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001 – 2005, launched in early 2008. It was extremely well received with a successful print run of 4500 copies. A few dozen hard copies of the Atlas-2 book can still be purchased through Ontario Nature.

The legacy of Atlas-2

Now, 15 years later, the Atlas-2 book is very nearly out of print, marking the successful completion of its print publication – but, the book will continue to contribute to bird conservation in Ontario and will live on in new and exciting ways! The Atlas team always hoped that the project and resulting publication would contribute not only to our understanding of bird biology, populations, and conservation, but also serve as a vehicle for outreach, awareness, and education. To help further these goals, some remaining copies of the book are being used to support outreach and engagement with Indigenous communities and youth for the Atlas-3 project. In this way, the Atlas-2 book and proceeds from its sale are helping to bridge the two projects and support expanding outreach efforts – a heartening and valuable connection that will benefit birds, conservation, and community. 

Whether you continue browsing the Atlas-2 book in hard copy, online, or in both formats, we hope that you enjoy this exciting contribution to the understanding and conservation of birds in Ontario.

What is a Breeding Bird Atlas?

The aim of a Breeding Bird Atlas is to document the distribution and relative abundance of breeding birds in a given geographic region, such as a province, region, or state. Some atlases are also able to determine the population size of breeding birds.

Executing a Breeding Bird Atlas project requires collaboration among partners and thousands of volunteers. Participants collect data in the field over a period of five years, typically. Then, data are analyzed and mapped and the results are published. This process is repeated – usually on a 20 year cycle – to track changes in breeding bird populations and distribution patterns over time. Atlas results are critical to conservation decision-making and can inform conservation policy, Species at Risk recovery, habitat management and stewardship, land securement, and more. 

In Canada, Breeding Bird Atlases are currently underway in Saskatchewan (publication phase), Ontario, and Newfoundland. Canada’s National Atlas Program represents a collaboration between Birds Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as some provincial governments, natural history organizations, and the private sector. 

Learn more about Breeding Bird Atlases: 

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