USGS PWRC - Bird Phenology Program

Latest version published by United States Geological Survey on Jan 4, 2023 United States Geological Survey
Publication date:
4 January 2023
CC0 1.0

Download the latest version of this resource data as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) or the resource metadata as EML or RTF:

Data as a DwC-A file download 1,034,886 records in English (27 MB) - Update frequency: not planned
Metadata as an EML file download in English (92 KB)
Metadata as an RTF file download in English (10 KB)


The North American Bird Phenology Program, part of the USA-National Phenology Network, was a network of volunteer observers who recorded information on first arrival dates, maximum abundance, and departure dates of migratory birds across North America. Active between 1880 and 1970, the program was coordinated by the Federal government and sponsored by the American Ornithologists' Union. It exists now as a historic collection of six million migration card observations, illuminating almost a century of migration patterns and population status of birds. Today, in an innovative project to curate the data and make them publically available, the records are being scanned and placed on the internet, where volunteers worldwide transcribe these records and add them into a database for analysis. From the close of the program in 1970 Chan Robbins continued to make sure the records were kept safe. In 2008, Sam Droege and Jessica Zelt, with help from the National Phenology Network revived the migration program and dubbed it the North American Bird Phenology Program. The program that started as Wells Cooke’s research in the Mississippi Valley and grew through the help of the American Ornithologist Union to become the Division of Economic Ornithology would later become the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The records are now being digitized and with help from citizen scientists the information will be combined in an online database accessible to the public. What began as a quest to find out how and why birds migrate, turned into one of our Nations greatest and longest running programs.

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 1,034,886 records.

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

USGS. 2015. North American Bird Phenology Program (1880-1970) species occurrence data of birds in the United States.


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is United States Geological Survey. To the extent possible under law, the publisher has waived all rights to these data and has dedicated them to the Public Domain (CC0 1.0). Users may copy, modify, distribute and use the work, including for commercial purposes, without restriction.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: ce9d17f0-de7f-4518-83a6-690c615dd8d9.  United States Geological Survey publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF-US.


Metadata; Aves; birds; phenology; Occurrence

External data

The resource data is also available in other formats

Wikipedia: USGS Bird Phenology Program html html


Sam Droege
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • User
  • Point Of Contact
Wildlife Biologist
United States Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC)USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
BARC - EAST, Building 308, Room 124, 10300 Baltimore Avenue
20705 Beltsville
+1 (301) 497-5840
Derek Masaki
  • Originator
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
20192 Reston
Elizabeth Sellers
  • Metadata Provider
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
20192 Reston
+1 703-648-4385

Geographic Coverage

This bounding box is not precise.

Bounding Coordinates South West [17.11, -169.26], North East [70.45, -66.64]

Taxonomic Coverage

539 bird taxa.

Class Aves (birds)

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 1870-03-21 / 1981-03-29

Project Data

No Description available

Title US Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center - Bird Phenology Program
Funding USGS

The personnel involved in the project:

Jessic Zelt
  • Custodian Steward

Bibliographic Citations

  1. North American Bird Phenology Program Bibliography.

Additional Metadata

During processing of the dataset, because State, County, and Water Body data were not provided in the original, calculated State, County, and Marine Exclusive Economic Zone values were added, where applicable. During processing of the dataset, non-native status information was added, were applicable, in the establishmentMeans field. Two of the original 1,034,888 records were deleted during processing because their lat/lon values placed them (incorrectly) near the South Pole. Total records: 1,034,886. Total number of unique taxa: 537.