What is NatureCounts
NatureCounts is the interactive data portal for Birds Canada’s National Data Centre. NatureCounts allows people interested in birds, whether for conservation, research or their personal enjoyment, to interact with one of the largest datasets on birds anywhere in the world.
NatureCounts is bringing together observation data on birds and other biodiversity including data from:
- broad-scale citizen-based bird-surveillance programs.
NatureCounts is a portal of the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN). While the focus of NatureCounts is primarily on Canadian birds, you will also find other data from projects coordinated by Birds Canada and its partners, including data on other taxonomic groups (e.g. the Trinational Monarch Knowledge Network portal), and some ranging to other regions (mainly within North America). Some of the same data are available through other AKN nodes, but others are only available from this site. You can access a complete list of all datasets available for download from NatureCounts here, and you can use our data request page to submit a request. You can also consult a list of other AKN partners where you can access additional data.
One of the core strengths of NatureCounts is an extensive database that combines data from hundreds of different sources, all using a common standard defined by the Avian Knowledge Network, called the Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (BMDE). This format makes it easy to combine datasets and removes some of the usual barriers related to accessibility and formats, rapid discovery, access, and analysis of these vast resources.
The goals of NatureCounts and the Avian Knowledge Network are to:
- educate the public on the dynamics of bird populations
- provide interactive decision-making tools for land managers
- make available a data resource for scientific research
- advance new exploratory analysis techniques to study bird populations.
NatureCounts is a node of the Avian Knowledge Network, and aims to provide access to bird monitoring data and facilate the understanding of the patterns and dynamics of bird populations across the Western Hemisphere.
What data are included in NatureCounts
There are literally hundreds of datasets available in NatureCounts, representing well over 100 million occurrences of birds. These include virtually all of Birds Canada’s monitoring initiatives, such as Breeding Bird Atlases, eBird Canada, the Marsh Monitoring Program, Nocturnal Owl Surveys, as well as many other major initiatives to which BSC contributes in some capacity (Canadian Migration Monitoring Program, Hawk Count and the Raptor Population Index, the Trinational Monarch Knowledge Network, the Breeding Bird Survey, the Christmas Bird Count, etc.).
While several of the datasets are primarily managed by our partners, such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, Environment Canada, etc., others are managed Birds Canada through one of our data entry tools within NatureCounts.
It should also be mentioned that one of the other resources managed by Birds Canada’s National Data Centre, but currently not available through NatureCounts, is the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, a network of automated telemetry stations allowing us to track individual birds fitted with radio transmitters as they move through the landscape, and feeding vast amounts of data into BSC’s national databases.
What can you do with the data?
- You can explore the data resources of NatureCounts via interactive maps that allow you to view the distribution of bird populations any time of the year and across a variety of different sources.
- You can obtain and visualize information on long term population trends of Canadian birds.
- You can explore an individual species pattern of distribution or the species richness of a particular location via dynamically generated summary tables and graphs.
- Finally, much of the observational data can be directly accessed and downloaded
How are NatureCounts data being used?
NatureCounts has provided mission critical data to thousands of users, for a wide range of applications, including academic research, student projects and a diverse array of conservation uses (COSEWIC status reports, consultant industries, etc.). We are always looking for examples of how NatureCounts data are being used. If you have published manuscripts or reports using bird monitoring data made available by NatureCounts, or developed a data visualization or analysis, please share with us!
NatureCounts data also serve as the basis for tracking bird status within Canadian Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA). The species status and summaries you will find available within the IBA web site are directly generated from the NatureCounts database.
Want to contribute?
If you are a participant in any of the monitoring initiatives already included in NatureCounts, congratulations, you are already contributing to NatureCounts and the Avian Knowledge Network! For instance, simply by submitting your bird observations to any of the Canadian Breeding Bird Atlases, eBird Canada or eButterfly, you are participating in this important initiative and contributing to our global knowledge on bird populations.
Birds Canada is also interested in hosting additional bird observational data, particularly those within Canada. These may help our ongoing monitoring efforts (e.g. atlases) or be made available to the thousands of NatureCounts users. If you are interested in contributing data to NatureCounts or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.