Date: 3/28/21 7:50 am
From: Brent Ortego <brentortego...>
Subject: [texbirds] Texas Breeding Bird Surveys
The U.S. Geological Survey Breeding Bird Survey office indicated they would support conducting the breeding bird survey this year after a year of absence due to Covid-19 precautions. For people who were signed up 2 years ago, you should be receiving your route packet in the mail in mid April with additional instructions on how to conduct the route with Covid-19 precautions.

Listed below are 11 routes which are currently vacant and we are seeking a volunteer to run a route during one day in May or June.


Brent Ortego


This is my 2nd request for volunteer sign-up to conduct roadside breeding bird surveys (BBS) in Texas during 2021. There are 0 vacancies in West Texas, 0 in the Panhandle, 1 in North Central Texas, 0 in Central, 2 in Northeast Texas, 0 in Southeast Texas, 2 in Coastal Prairie, and 6 in South Texas. Read below for more details.

For those not familiar with the survey methodology, the BBS is the National Survey which is the primary source for breeding bird population trends in the nation. This survey has about 3000 randomly located routes across the United States. Each route is 24.5 miles long with 50 stops spaced 0.5 miles apart. At each stop during a 3-minute period, the observer tallies all birds seen within ¼ mile and all birds heard. The route lasts from 30 minutes before sunrise until you finish which is normally about 11 a.m. The route needs to be run ONCE each year during the months of May or June; exact dates vary with each route. It might require a pre-survey scouting trip just to familiarize yourself with the route, and a little paper/computer work after the route is done. The observer needs to be able to identify most of the birds along the route by call and all by sight. Along routes in agricultural areas, this might only mean about 20 species by call, but in more complex forested areas it might mean 70 species.
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2018. Adaptive Harvest
National and local conservation organizations regularly use BBS data (see in their analysis. They focus very strongly on breeding bird population trends generated by YOUR DATA, and also used bird density data extensively. Partners In Flight has developed models to estimate breeding density and distribution for all species they are tracking with BBS data. Other examples of products created with BBS data are:

Management: 2019 Hunting Season. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. 72 pp.
• Seamans, M. E. 2018. Band-tailed pigeon population status, 2018. U.S. DOI, Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management, Washington, D.C.
• Kramer et al. 2018. Population trends in Vermivora warblers are linked to strong migratory connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115: E3192-E3200.
• Betts et al. 2018. Old‐growth forests buffer climate‐sensitive bird populations from warming. Diversity and Distributions 24:439–447.
• Fedy et al. 2018. Distribution of priority grassland bird habitats in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. Avian Conservation and Ecology 13(1).
• Ruegg et al. 2018. Ecological genomics predicts climate vulnerability in an endangered southwestern songbird. Ecology Letters 21: 1085-1096.
• Using North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data to guide conservation in the Prairie Pothole Region (<>)
• Partners in Flight Avian Conservation Assessment Database (<>)
• Partners in Flight Population Estimates Database (<>)
• US Air Force Bird Avoidance Model (<>)
• US Environmental Protection Agency Report on Environment (<>)

Texas has 196 BBS routes and 11 vacancies. The National Office has started listing routes as vacant when they have not received data from a volunteer for two years. If you see your route listed as vacant, check your files and resubmit your data because the National Office has not received it.

This seems like a lot of routes, but it is not for a state our size. Due to the variability of the data, we are trying to run at least 14 routes per ecological area and there are 10 ecological areas in Texas. This should provide us a statistically valid sample of population trends of birds breeding near highways. We are getting close to obtaining this sample size in every bird region. We always have problems getting qualified birders to do routes in the more rural parts of the State. While there are plenty of good birders in Texas, the birders are concentrated in urban areas and the birds are spread throughout the State causing logistics problems of running routes in remote parts of the Texas. A classic example is West Texas and the Panhandle, lots of country and few birders.

When you volunteer, I will need your NAME, MAILING ADDRESS, E-MAIL, TELEPHONE NUMBER and ROUTE of interest. I can be contacted at:


Vacant routes are listed below by geographic areas. Species data for each route can be obtained at the link = Those areas with the largest numbers of vacancies are the areas needing the most help.


0 Vacancies




Route 353 Hawley Jones County
1994 – 2013; 18 years; 34-50 species; expect 45


0 Vacancies


Route 056 Morton Harrison County
1970 – 2012; 30 years; 40-76 species; expect mid 50’s
13 species of warblers; historic Bachman’s Sparrow site

Route 071 Dike Hopkins County
1969 – 2016; 37 years; 31-64 species, expect mid 50’s
6 species of woodpeckers and warblers


0 Vacancies


Route 013 Indianola Calhoun County
1967 – 2014; 40 years; 21-60 species, expect 50
Coastal mix of species. Historically had Black Rail.

Route 306 Oyster Lake Matagorda County
1995-2019; 19 years; 44-70 species, expect 50. Starts in coastal
Marsh and extends inland thru coastal prairie to ag. Quail, herons,
Painted Bunting and Dickcissel are common.


Route 016 George West Live Oak
1967-2019; 27 years; 40-68 species; expect 60.
Mostly thorn-scrub communities. Abundant
quail, doves & thrashers. 4species of orioles.

Route 098 Raymondville Willacy County
1969 – 2014; 43 years; 28-72 species; expect 50
South Texas mix.

Route 115 El Sauz Starr County
1993 – 2015; 15 years; 45-59 species; expect 50
Typical Brush Country species.

Route 308 Three Rivers Live Oak County
1994-2019; 21 years; 41-65 species; expect 58.
Mostly thorn-scrub communities. Abundant quail,
doves & thrashers. 4species of orioles.

Route 409 Millett 2 La Salle County
2013 – 2017; 5 years; 50-60 species, expect 55
3 species of Orioles, lots of quail

Route 410 Cavasara Creek Zapata County
1995 – 2013; 12 years; 28-56 species; expect 50
Brush Country community location of route maps BBS Methods

Brent Ortego
Victoria, TX

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