PIROP Northwest Atlantic 1965-1992
Canadian Wildlife Service

Dataset credit

Falk Huettmann & John W. Chardine, Canadian Wildlife Service


Primary contact David Hyrenbach Duke University Marine Laboratory
Primary contact Falk Huettmann Canadian Wildlife Service
Primary contact John Chardine Canadian Wildlife Service
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



The PIROP (Programme Intégré de recherches sur les oiseaux pélagiques) data set, Atlantic subset, consists of geo-referenced vessel-based surveys to monitor pelagic seabirds. Most surveys were carried out by R.G. B. Brown from 'vessels of opportunity' supplied by the Bedford Institute for Oceanography (BIO) in Dartmouth/Halifax, but many other platforms and observers were used, too. During these surveys observations other than seabirds were also recorded, e.g. Waterfowl, Waterbirds, Songbirds, Raptors, Owls, Sea Mammals, and other sightings of interest (weather, oceanography, vessel activities, bird behaviour, etc.). The data collection period covers all seasons of 1966-1992, with most surveys being conducted between (late) summers of 1975-1987. The survey protocol originally consisted of unlimited width 10min transects, but was changed appr. 1984 towards a Tasker et al. (1984) type of survey (fixed-width strip transect). However, data and results from the PIROP database need to be interpreted as relative, and not absolute, abundance.


The PIROP data were collected for Canadian seabird monitoring purposes, focussing on the Canadian Atlantic, but also on other areas relevant to Canadian birds such as waters off Peru, off West Africa and off Europe.

Supplemental information

[2015-03-24] Some records had a wrong animal count of zero. The value is replaced with a blank representing species presence only.

Data correction: Puffinus creatopus (Pink-footed Shearwater; ITIS: 174547) observed on 1982-08-16 12:00:00 at 53.9000:-55.5000 (id=151664) changed to Procellariidae (Shearwaters; ITIS: 174532) as P. creatopus does not occur in the Atlantic.

The PIROP data has effort data which is not as complete as to generate tracklines. It's available upon request and you are strongly encouraged to discuss with the data providers how to handle the effort data.

The PIROP data set is a large pool of seabird data, which got extended and modified over the years, e.g. due to changes of objectives and staff. Appr. in 1998 the data were merged by CWS-Dartmouth office with the Manomet Bird Observatory Seabird database, which cover mostly the Gulf of Maine region.

The following references refer to the PIROP database and present an overview about the structure, application and value of the data:

  • Brown R.G.B. 1967. Sea Birds off Halifax. Canadian Field-Naturalist 81:276-8.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1970. Fulmar distribution: a Canadian perspective. Ibis 111:44-51.

  • Brown, R.G.B. 1971. PIROP Instruction Manual. Canadian Wildlife Service, Dartmouth.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1973. Transatlantic migration of Fulmars from the European Arctic. Canadian Field-Naturalist 87:312-3.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1977. Atlas of eastern Canadian seabirds Supplement 1 Halifax-Bermuda transects. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1979. Seabirds of the Senegal upwelling and adjacent waters. Ibis 121:283-92.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1984. Seabirds in the Greenland, Barents and Norwegian Seas, February-April 1982. Polar Research 2:1-18.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1986. Revised Atlas of Eastern Canadian Seabirds. Bedford Institute of Oceanography: Candian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1988. The Wing-moult of Fulmars and Shearwaters (Procellariidae) in Canadian Atlantic Waters. Canadian Field-Naturalist 102:203-8.

  • Brown R.G.B. 1991.Marine birds and climatic warming in the northwest Atlantic. In: Montevecchi W.A, Gaston A.J., eds. Studies of high-latitude seabirds.1.Behavioural, energetic, and oceanographic aspects of seabird feeding ecology. Volume Occasional Paper Number 1968. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Brown R.G.B and D.N. Nettleship 1983. Seabird distribution studies. (Bedford Institute of Oceanography BIO Review '83). Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Brown R.G.B., Nettleship D.N., Germain P, Tull C.E., and Davis T. 1975. Atlas of eastern Canadian seabirds. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Diamond A.W. 1985. A computer model of the energy demands of the seabirds of eastern and arctic Canada. Volume Final Report. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.

  • Diamond A.W., Gaston A.J., and Brown R.G.B. 1986. Converting PIROP counts of seabirds at sea to absolute densities. Progress Notes No 164

  • Diamond A.W., Gaston A.J., and Brown R.G.B.. 1993 Studies of high-latitude seabirds. 3.A model of the energy demands of the seabirds of eastern Arctic CanadaMontevecchi WA, ed. Occasional Paper Number 77. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa

  • Germain P., Brown R.G.B., and Tull C.E. 1973. Autumn seabird distribution in Canadian Arctic and Greenland waters. Studies on Northern Seabirds. Manuscript Report(No.

  • Huettmann, F. 1997. TraPirp2: SQL PIROP import codes from ASCII Text into dBASE format. ACWERN (Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network), Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada.

  • Huettmann, F. 1998. An Ecological GIS Research Application for the Northern Atlantic-The PIROP Database Software, Environmental Data Sets and the Role of the Internet/WWW. In: Riekert W.-F. and Tochtermann K. (Eds.) Hypermedia im Umweltschutz Proceedings
    of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) and Forschungsinstitut für anwendungsorientierte Wissensverarbeitung (FAW) Ulm. Umwelt-Informatik aktuell; Bd.17, Metropolis Verlag/Marburg. pp. 213-217.

  • Huettmann F. 2000a. Environmental Determination of Seabird Distribution in the Northwest Atlantic. Atlantic Cooperative Ecology Wildlife Research Network (ACWERN). University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B./Canada

  • Huettmann, F. 2000b. Making use of public large-scale environmental databases from the WWW and a GIS for georeferenced prediction modelling: A research application
    using Generalized Linear Models, Classification and Regression Trees and Neural Networks. In: Tochtermann, K. and Riekert W.-F. (Eds.) Hypermedia im Umweltschutz Proceedings of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) and Forschungsinstitut für anwendungsorientierte Wissensverarbeitung (FAW) Ulm. Umwelt-Informatik aktuell; Bd.24, Metropolis Verlag/Marburg. pp. 308-312.

  • Huettmann F. 2000. Seabird migration in the Canadian North Atlantic: moulting locations and movement patterns of immatures. Canadian Journal of Zoology 33:1-25.

  • Huettmann, F. and Lock, T. 1997. A new software system for the PIROP database: data flow and an approach for a seabird-depth analysis. ICES Journal of Marine Science 54:518-23.

  • Huettmann, F. and Diamond, A.W. 2001a. Using PCA Scores to classify species communities: an example using seabird classifications at sea. Journal for Applied Statistics 28:843-853.

  • Huettmann F. and Diamond A.W. 2001b. Seabird colony locations and environmental determination of seabird distribution: A spatially explicit seabird breeding model in the Northwest Atlantic. Ecological Modelling 141: 261-298.

  • King, W.B., Watson, G.E. and Gould, P.J. 1967. An application of automatic data processing to the study of the world ocean. Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum. 123, No 3609.

  • Lock A.R., Brown R.G.B., Gerriets S.H. 1994. Gazetteer of Marine Birds in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Wildlife Service, Dartmouth NS Canada


Brown, R.G.B., D.N. Nettleship, P. Germain, C.E. Tull and T. Davis. 1975. Atlas of eastern Canadian seabirds. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.
Diamond, A. W., A.J. Gaston and R.G.B. Brown. 1986. Converting PIROP counts of seabirds at sea to absolute densities. Progress Notes. No. 164. 21 pp.
Huettmann, F. 1998. An ecological GIS research application for the northern Atlantic - The PIROP database software, environmental data sets and the role of the internet/WWW. W.-F. Riekert and K. Tochtermann (Eds.) Hypermedia im Umweltschutz Proceedings of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) and Forschungsinstitut für anwendungsorientierte Wissensverarbeitung (FAW) Ulm. Umwelt-Informatik aktuell; Bd.17, Metropolis Verlag. 213-217.



Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downlodable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission unless otherwise noted below.

Attributes in dataset provided

Attribute (table column)Description
datasetDataset ID assigned by OBIS-SEAMAP
linenoLine No added by OBIS-SEAMAP
speciesSpecies code
tsnITIS Taxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
commonSpecies common name added by OBIS-SEAMAP
scientificSpecies scientific name added by OBIS-SEAMAP
rankTaxonomic rank added by OBIS-SEAMAP
countRaw abundance: Number of birds counted per sighting
bird_kmRelative encounter rate: number of birds sighted within the transect per km surveyed
rel_countReliability of number estimation for the sighting
type_specCode of seabird flock type within a species
rel_identReliability code of species identification
shipCode of ship name
cruiseCode of cruise
observerCode of observer name
declatDecimal degrees of latitude
declongDecimal degrees of longitude
monthMonth of the year as a 2-digit number
dayDay of the month as a 2-digit number
yearYear as a 2-digit number
timeGreenwich Standard Time (hours and minutes)
obsdateDate of the observation added by OBIS-SEAMAP
obstimeTime of the observation (local time) added by OBIS-SEAMAP
formatPIROP format refers to the number and type of data fields recorded: 57 and 97
obs_lenLength of observation/transect in minutes (usually 10 minutes)
speedShip speed in knots (value of 0 denotes lack of data)
kilometersKilometers traveled during transect length (normally within 10 minutes)
directionDirection of boat (heading) in degrees (0: ship stopped, 99 : no data)
activityShip activity during transect
num_obserNumber of observers that carry out the survey. 0 means no data available
heightObserver eye height above the water code: 1 under 15ft, 2 15-30ft, 3 30-60ft, 40 over 60ft
typeWatch types
reliabilitReliability of transect
visibilityVisibility during transect
weatherWeather code during transect
state_seaState of sea code during transect
angle_viewView angle for transect
excludedinternal use added by OBIS-SEAMAP
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
Marine mammals4,721
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species4,959
Non spatial0
Non species1
Date, Begin1965-01-22
Date, End1992-09-30
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude-25.15 - 79.78
Longitude-149.57 - 18.57
Coord. prec.4 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Also availalbe from iOBIS
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics