Results So Far

Eastern towhee © Roger Wrubel, Mass Audubon
Eastern towhee © Roger Wrubel, Mass Audubon

Breeding bird surveys of forests, grasslands, and salt marshes were initiated in 2004 at 127 counting circles on 26 Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries throughout the state. This has grown to 307 circles on 46 wildlife sanctuaries as of 2012.


Species Richness Comparisons 

Species richness refers to the number of species in a selected area, such as a wildlife sanctuary. In the figure below, each triangle represents one of the wildlife sanctuaries we have sampled. The size of the triangle indicates the relative number of species recorded there.

Due to their size and the variety of natural communities they contain, Pleasant Valley, Canoe Meadows, Wachusett Meadow, Ipswich River, Broadmoor, and Allens Pond recorded the most species present.

Results Map 1

Birds of Conservation Concern

Many of our wildlife sanctuaries serve as breeding habitats for a large number of “species of conservation concern". A formal designation by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, a species of conservation concern is one that is rare or declining in population and has been so designated in the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). Ipswich River, Allens Pond, and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuaries support the highest number of these “SWAP” species (as seen in the map below).

Results Map 2

The top five Species of Conservation Concern recorded on Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries during breeding bird surveys:


Number of sanctuaries on which it has been recorded

Wood Thrush 27
Eastern Towhee 27
Willow Flycatcher 11
Broad-winged Hawk 8
Green Heron 6

Species that inhabit forest interiors are of conservation concern due to the increased fragmentation of their habitats, both in New England and in their wintering grounds. Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries in the central and western part of the state provide particularly rich habitat for these types of species.

Results Map 3

Widely Distributed Species 

The following species are ubiquitous throughout Massachusetts and occur at a large number of our wildlife sanctuaries during the breeding season.


Number of Sanctuaries

American Goldfinch 40
Blue Jay 40
American Robin 39
Downy Woodpecker 39
Black-capped Chickadee 38
Tufted Titmouse 37
Common Grackle 36
White-breasted Nuthatch 35
Red-winged Blackbird 34
Brown Headed Cowbird 34
Common Yellowthroat 34