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News and events

News & events

Citizen scientists work to fill the nightjar information gap

September 29, 2016

By Bryan Watts, Center for Conservation Biology

Over the past four decades there has been a growing concern within the conservation community that some species of nightjars are experiencing rapid declines over much of their breeding ranges.  Their ecology is poorly understood.  Because national monitoring programs are conducted during daylight hours and nightjars primarily call after dark, we have had very little information to assess changes in distribution and abundance.    

In 2007, The Center for Conservation Biology called on citizen scientists to help fill the information gap with nightjars by initiating the Nightjar Survey Network.  The response has been both gratifying and overwhelming.  An army of birdwatchers, agency biologists, and nightjar lovers have volunteered during the wee hours of the night to conduct standardized surveys of routes across North America.  The effort has resulted in the most comprehensive database to date on the group.

A total of more than 23,000 nightjars of nine species have been recorded during surveys.  We would like to express our gratitude to the many observers across the continent who have given of their time and expertise to make this effort possible.  Over the next year, CCB biologists will begin to explore the database for spatial and temporal patterns that will help with future nightjar management.  Moving forward, we hope to expand the volunteer base and survey network into additional areas that have received little coverage.

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