Quick Start Guide for Winter Atlasing

December 14 – March 15

You don’t need to be a birding expert to provide valuable observations to the Maine Bird Atlas project!

Every bird sighting helps, even the birds in your backyard or at your feeder. You likely know more birds than you realize, and the great thing about this project is it doesn’t matter what you don’t know, just report what you do. 

Sharing your sightings is easy!

Step 1: Go outside OR watch/listen for birds in your yard from the comfort of your home

Step 2: Take note of:

  • What species you see/hear
  • When (day and estimate of time)
  • Where you see it


  • How many individuals of a species you see at any one time

Step 3: Create an account at ebird.org/me

Step 4: Log into your account at ebird.org/me and click “Submit.” Follow the prompts to enter your observations.

It’s that easy!  Thank you for sharing your sighting and participating in this project to help guide Maine's future bird conservation efforts.

Are you an avid birder? Do you want to take your citizen science efforts to the next level?

Read on for more on how you can help complete additional Maine Bird Atlas goals.


Winter Atlas Season and Goals

14 December – 15 March. Atlasing during the winter is fairly straightforward. The goal is to visit all habitats that are safely accessible within each block and document as many species as possible within the survey window. We are aiming for a minimum of 6 hours of birding in each Atlas Block, with at least 3 hours of surveying during early winter (14 December – 31 January) and 3 hours of surveying during late winter (1 February – 15 March).

Atlas Blocks, Maps, and Location Precision

The Atlas block is the basic survey unit of the Maine Bird Atlas and Maine is subdivided into approximately 4,000 Atlas blocks. Awareness of the specific location and block name where you document birds is critical for contributing records. We suggest that you download and print PDF Atlas maps of your region of interest or take along a Delorme Atlas of Maine or a GPS in the field with you to accurately record the locations of birds you observe.

Unlike for the breeding component of this project, we have not identified specific priority blocks for surveying or established a separate sign up for adopting blocks in the winter. Because slight mishaps or inadequate preparation can result in life threatening scenarios in winter, we do not have specific coverage goals for the winter atlas component. We only strive to adequately survey as many blocks as can be safely attempted given time and effort over the five-year duration of the project. We encourage volunteers to focus their winter survey efforts on any and all Atlas Blocks that can be safely accessed.

Ways to volunteer

There are two main ways to volunteer for the winter bird atlas:

Contribute Incidental Observations - Incidental observations of wintering birds anywhere in Maine, even in blocks "adopted" by others, are welcome and an important source of records.

Evening Grosbeaks and Northern Cardinal, T. Hoffelder

Focus your survey efforts on specific Atlas Blocks – As mentioned above, we do not have a separate sign up for adopting atlas blocks for winter surveys. Instead, we encourage volunteers to visit the interactive block map, peruse the map of blocks in your region, and focus efforts on ones that can be safely accessed but are not yet complete. You can also check out our dashboard of results to date to explore blocks and assess current effort.

Information to Collect

Don't rely on your memory for records of birds you observe. Instead write down your observations in a notebook or use the eBird App. We require the following, for all observations, when collecting information for the Maine Winter Bird Atlas:

    Common and King Eiders, D. Hitchcox

  1. Date, Observer(s), Time(s) –
    • Important to record this basic information for all records. Do not summarize your observations across multiple dates.
  2. Specific Location –
    • At a minimum, all observations should be connected to the Atlas block where the bird was located, though we encourage observations to be as precise as possible within each block. Keep track of the survey distance that your bird list represents. Make sure you did not cross boundaries into a new block. You will want to keep separate bird lists for each block.

    Snowy Owl, D. Hitchcox

  3. Species Observed –
    •  We need to know the species of birds you were able to identify at each location. Do not guess on identifications. Tentative identifications should not be recorded.
  4. Abundance -
    • Finally, a rough count or estimate of the number of individuals seen or heard for each species at each location. An "educated guess" on the number of individuals seen or heard is preferable to no count at all. This count should be the actual number of birds seen or heard, not a projected estimate of the number that may be present in the area but were not detected.

Safety, Ethics, and Private Property

Snow Buntings, S. Mierzykowskik

Always put your safety first and prepare before heading afield. Slight mishaps in the winter can quickly become life-threatening.

In addition, the welfare of birds and the protection of their habitat is extremely important. Winter is a critical time of year when birds can be easily compromised. Unnecessary movements that seem simple/normal to us can have dire energetic consequences for birds in winter. A sighting or photo should NEVER take precedence over the well-being of wildlife!

Lastly, do not enter private property without permission.

Options for Sending us your Data

There are several options for submitting data to the Maine Bird Atlas. Our preferred method for entering data is through eBird on your computer at home, work, on your phone (eBird app), or at a local library. Entering data through eBird is very simple and fun - we encourage everyone to give it a try. Click here for more info on eBird and how to use it. Note: To help us keep the data and summary information organized for this project, the majority (if not all) of your winter bird observations should be entered into Maine eBird, not the Maine Bird Atlas portal. Click here for more information on the difference.

If you prefer not to enter your data electronically, for whatever reason, we have a group of volunteers willing to enter records submitted on our paper forms, although make sure to fill out the form completely and legibly so that we can correctly enter your observations. Paper forms should be mailed directly to the atlas project (Maine Bird Atlas, c/o Glen Mittelhauser, Maine Natural History Observatory, 317 Guzzle Road, Gouldsboro, ME 04607), or the forms can be scanned or photographed and sent by email.

Example data forms are available in the Volunteer Handbook (PDF) and are downloadable from our Resources and Materials page.

For more information on being an atlas volunteer:

or check out our volunteer handbook (PDF)