Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version


Document Type



Silcock, The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas, Wayne J. Mollhoff, Bulletin of the University of Nebraska State Museum, Vol. 29, 2016 [book review], from Nebraska Bird Review (June 2016) 84(2).


Copyright 2016 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


As suggested by its title, this book (“Second Atlas”) presents the results of a follow-up to the first Nebraska breeding bird atlas, The Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas 1984–89 (“First Atlas”), also authored by Wayne Mollhoff. In this Second Atlas, Mollhoff acknowledges the foresight of John J. Dinan, Nongame Bird Program Manager at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission during the time of the First Atlas, in working toward a “follow-up project.” As Mollhoff says in the foreword to the Second Atlas, "His persistence in pursuing that goal ultimately led to the current project.”

The best feature of the Second Atlas is the presentation of the distributional maps for both atlases in each species account. This juxtaposition allows the reader to visually detect with ease changes in ranges of the species and the density of occurrence during the time that passed between the two projects. Because the First Atlas explored 443 survey blocks and the Second Atlas 557, statistical analysis of the comparative results is "problematic", as noted by the author. However, in most of the interesting numerical comparisons made between the two projects, Mollhoff included only the 443 atlas blocks that were part of both projects. The results of these comparisons are, in my opinion, the key information provided in the Second Atlas. In addition, Mollhoff provides some context for these comparison results by relating them to data from the United States Geological Service Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). The reader will find many fascinating nuggets of information in the 443-block comparisons regarding “frequency” of occurrence (percentage of blocks in which a species was found) and range (number of counties in which species was found) . The range comparison uses all 557 blocks of the Second Atlas in its comparisons, which is acceptable in a spatial analysis.

The meat of the book is the Species Accounts. Of course, the two maps and the comparative analysis between atlas efforts included in each Species Account are the key data points. Mollhoff ably discusses the status of each species as indicated by the maps and the various numerical comparisons between the two projects. Mollhoff uses BBS data to supplement the map data and comparisons; in most cases this is useful despite significant, perhaps statistically insurmountable, differences in protocol between atlas and BBS data. There is additional information on patch size, habitat, and breeding phenology for each species based on data recorded by the field observers. I found this information interesting and useful, perhaps most importantly as base information for further studies.