ABERDEEN, S.D. — South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department has created a new interactive atlas that helps bird enthusiasts learn about the state’s breeding bird population.

The department unveiled its updated, online version of the Breeding Bird Atlas in early August, the Aberdeen American News reported .

Senior wildlife biologist Eileen Dowd Stukel said the tool features the results of a five-year field project about breeding birds found in the state.

“It was five years of field work, but there were a couple years of prep work and a couple years after the field work for analysis and report writing,” she said. “It was more like a 10-year commitment to do it right.”

Dowd Stukel said the atlas is a survey method to document as many breeding birds as possible at the highest level possible, adding that it’s a repeat effort of South Dakota’s first Breeding Bird Atlas from two decades ago to see what changes have occurred in the population over time.

“The data for this second atlas were collected from 2008 through 2012, exactly 20 years after the first atlas, where data were collected from 1988 through 1992,” said Dowd Stukel, a 30-year department member who also helped organize the first atlas. “We were really excited to go back and see what changes we could detect in those 20 years.”

The most significant difference between the two atlas surveys was that the most recent one had a dedicated budget that allowed the department to enlist help from a Colorado-based conservation organization called the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

“They were our major partner in this,” Dowd Stukel said. “They coordinated it to an extent that we could not have done out of our agency.”

Funding for the atlas came from a state wildlife grant allocated by Congress each year. Dowd Stukel said that those federal funds were then matched by state Division of Wildlife dollars.

Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

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