Purpose of NORAC

The purpose of NORAC, the North American Ornithological Atlas Committee, is to facilitate and encourage the use of bird atlases for mapping and monitoring birds in the Americas, particularly to help with bird conservation and management:

The roles of NORAC include:

  • providing recommendations for atlasing procedures and standards
  • providing information resources for promoting or developing atlases
  • providing regular means of communication between people involved in and/or planning bird atlases

Communication tools include workshops every couple of years, this website and the NORAC listserv

The initial focus of NORAC was on breeding bird atlases, whose objective is to map the distribution of breeding records of each species. This History of NORAC is summarized on the Past Meetings page, where minutes of recent meets are also posted. One of the major accomplishments of NORAC during that early period was publication, in 1990, of a guide that provided standards used by the majority of first-round breeding bird atlases in North America (see Resources for more details).

More recently, many areas have become engaged in repeat atlases, and there have been a number of changes to the goals and objectives of atlases. In some areas, confirmation of breeding has been de-emphasized, and there is increased interest in determining not only the distribution of breeding birds, but also their abundance or relative abundance, details of habitat associations, precise locations of rare species, etc. There is also recognition that atlases can provide information not only on breeding birds, but also on migrant or wintering birds at other times of the year. This is especially relevant in Latin America and the Caribbean, where many species are year-round residents, while other species, also of conservation interest, may only be present during the non-breeding season.

Changes in technologies available to manage atlases have been even more dramatic. Computers for processing data are much more powerful than in the early period, and the Internet is now be used for many aspects of atlas management including distribution of materials to atlasers, data entry, data management and review, and presentation of results.

We believe that NORAC can continue to play an important role in disseminating information on new approaches and new technologies and developing recommendations, as required.

The NORAC website is hosted and maintained by Bird Studies Canada

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