The Copenhagen global avian distributional database


Rahbek, C., Hansen, L.A., and Fjeldså, J. 2012. One degree resolution database of the global distribution of birds. The Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

About the database

Distributional data for the more than 10,000 species of birds for all land and non-pelagic species was mapped for each species at a resolution of 1o × 1o latitude-longitude grid cells following the approach outlined in Rahbek and Graves (2000, 2001) and subsequently in Brooks et al. (2001) and Jetz and Rahbek (2002).

We consider the spatial resolution of 1 x 1 geographical degrees the best compromise between the sampling inadequacy for many species groups and the loss of biogeographic detail (especially in mountainous regions) at coarse resolutions (Rahbek and Graves 2000). Maps represent a conservative extent-of-occurrence of the breeding ranges based on museum specimens, published sight records, and spatial distribution of habitats between documented records, which have subsequently been validated by ornithological experts. More than

1600 references have been used for the mapping. The distributions of species are matched to the global taxonomies provided by the International Ornithological Congress (Gill et al. 2009). The database is dynamic, and since compilation began in 1993, new data are added almost daily.

Download list of references 

The data are being used for research. By stacking the individual species maps on top of each other, we obtain species richness estimations, which can then be analyzed in relation to phylogenetic, environmental and social information. Such information can then be used for objective and transparent analysis of the efficiency of conservation plans, or development of objective biogeographical classifications (see e.g. Holt et al. 2013).


Brooks, T., A. Balmford, N. Burgess, J. Fjeldså, L. A. Hansen, J. Moore, C. Rahbek, and P. Williams. Toward a blueprint for conservation in Africa. 2001. BioScience 51: 613-624.

Gill, F., Wright, M., and Donsker, D. IOC World Bird Names, version 2.2.

Holt, B.G., Lessard, J.-P., Borregaard, M.K., Fritz, S.A., Araújo, M.B., Dimitrov, D., Fabre, P.-H., Graham, C.H., Graves, G.R., Jønsson, K.A., Nogués-Bravo, D., Wang, Z., Whittaker, R.J., Fjeldså, J., Rahbek, C. 2013. An update of Wallace's zoogeographic regions of the world. Science, 20 December 2012 (10.1126/science.1228282)

Jetz, W., and C. Rahbek. 2002. Geographic range size and determinants of avian species richness. Science 297: 1548-1551.

Rahbek, C., and G. R. Graves. 2000. Detection of macroecological patterns in South American hummingbirds is affected by spatial scale. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences 267: 2259-2265.

Rahbek, C. and G. R. Graves. 2001. Multiscale assessment of patterns of avian species richness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 98: 4534-4539. (See also Editors' Choice in Ecology in Science 2001, vol 292:399)


Professor Carsten Rahbek