Breeding Bird Atlas

Wayne County Breeding Bird Atlas

Darrin O'Brien confirms a nesting Gray Catbird outside the fort walls of historic Fort Wayne, Detroit.

The Rouge River Bird Observatory coordinated field work in Wayne County for the second Breeding Bird Atlas of Michigan (MBBAII) in 2002-2007.

The goal of a Breeding Bird Atlas is to map the distribution of each species that nests in a region. The field work for the first Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas took place in 1983-1988.  Comparing the two periods will allow identification of range and population changes, and will provided information on how to manage and protect Michigan’s birds.

Wayne County is predominantly urban, and has undergone drastic changes in last century. RRBO has extensive data on breeding birds in Wayne County dating from the late 1800s. Information gathered in the MBBAII project adds to this wealth of knowledge, making RRBO the foremost authority on Wayne County, Michigan birds.

Brief methods

A Common Nighthawk nesting on a rooftop in Livonia.

Participants aim to observe the highest level of breeding status in an Atlas block, which is a quarter-township (nine square miles). Levels are possible, probable, and confirmed.  Actually finding a nest is not required to confirm breeding , as other evidence such as nest building, adults carrying food, etc. qualifies as “confirmed.” Over 40 volunteers contributed over 10,000 records in Wayne County.

There are 65 whole and 10 partial Atlas blocks in Wayne County. All blocks in the county received coverage (in the previous Atlas, five blocks had no coverage), and there were at least 10 species found in every block. In the first Atlas, only 22% of blocks had at least 25 total species, while in this project, 92% of the blocks reached this goal, and over 70% of the blocks had at least 20 confirmed species. Given the extremely urban make-up of most of the county, these numbers are impressive!

Overview of results

  • 135 species were recorded in Wayne County.
  • 33% of the blocks had at least 60 species, and 17% had at least 40 species confirmed. The blocks with the most species were found in the southwestern part of the county, and the block with the most species (110, with 81 confirmed) was the block that contains Crosswinds Marsh, in Sumpter Township.
  • 114 species were “confirmed” (although it does not mean all represented successful nests).
  • Just 4 species (Cattle Egret, Sharp- shinned Hawk, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Western Meadowlark) only reached the level of “possible.”
  • 17 species only reached the level of “probable.” Most of these species likely nested, at least rarely, in thecounty. These 17 species are: American Bittern, American Coot, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Black-billed Cuckoo, Barred Owl, Least Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Bell’s Vireo, Veery, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Mourning Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Pine Siskin.
  • 22 species were found in over 90% of the blocks: Killdeer, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, House Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Finch, and House Sparrow.

Read this article from the July/August 2010 issue of the Michigan Audubon Society newsletter for more about RRBO’s urban atlassing experience.

Detailed results

Fred McDonald counts Cliff Swallow nests (there were 53) under a bridge over the channelized portion of the Rouge River in Dearborn.

You can view a table of species which summarizes the number of blocks each was found in and at what level, with links to maps for each species.

Another table provides a summary of the number of species found at each level in each block.

This page provides links to each township in the county, with tables that list all the species found in the township and in which blocks at which level.

Click on the links below to download PDF documents of the species accounts written by RRBO’s Julie Craves:


Comments are closed.