In this paper, we argue that bird atlases, and the databases from which they are produced, are becoming increasingly valuable resources – but only in some parts of the world. There is a striking lack of atlases for almost all of the world's species-rich areas, most notably tropical America and tropical Asia. Yet even comparatively modest data sets (we take Uganda as an example) can be used to create an atlas. Further, their data can yield interesting information with clear value for conservation planning. For instance, we can see that Uganda's main savanna parks are quite well-placed in relation to raptor species richness, whilst other species of conservation concern are less well covered. In contrast, the fine-scale data-rich atlas projects in many American and European countries provide detailed information of great value. Taking examples from England, we show some of their uses in planning both for physical developments and for conservation. Repeating atlas projects after an interval of several years highlights changing distributions and, increasingly, changing levels of abundance. We believe that every encouragement should be given to new (and repeat) atlasing projects - but most especially in the tropics.
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