Project Spotlight: Audubon Coastal Bird Survey

Jessica Schulz and Erik Johnson

Originally established by the National Audubon Society in response to the 2010’s Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, the Audubon Coastal Bird Survey (ACBS) continues to help conservation planners assess threats and identify target species experiencing population declines. ACBS provides baseline data from TX to AL, which allows for the comparison of population trends and relative abundance for priority coastal bird species that serve as bioindicators of coastal ecosystem health. The survey also allows for understanding the impacts of human-induced threats and natural disturbances such as hurricanes, flooding, or storm surge.

This multi-state program involves ground surveys of standardized beach-front routes conducted by staff and trained volunteers. Survey pulses focus on fall, winter, and spring. Specifically, 6 surveys occur during during fall migration (Aug 20 – Oct 30), 6 surveys during spring migration (Mar 20 – May 30), and 3 surveys in mid-winter (Jan 10 – Feb 20). Volunteers record all birds seen within ¼ mile of survey routes, focusing on nonbreeding shorebirds and waterbirds. Emphasis is placed on species of conservation concern at national, regional, and state scales, such as plovers, Red Knots, Reddish Egrets, Black Skimmers, Brown Pelicans, American Oystercatchers, and others. Data are also collected regarding the amounts of wrack material, human activity, and garbage on the beach.

Anyone interested in participating in Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys or learning more about the program may contact Erik Johnson at

Photo courtesy of Erik Johnson