Abstract Birds have been widely regarded as a key element in monitoring biodiversity both in Australia and elsewhere. We believe that, although birds are unlikely to be an umbrella or indicator taxon for other biota (other vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, microorganisms), they do represent a taxon that can be monitored more easily and with less effort per datum than other biotic components. It has been shown by the great participation rate of lay observers (whom we call monitors) in several schemes (notably the Birds Australia Atlas programs) that there is a capacity to mobilize the public to undertake bird surveying. Although there are many limitations to acquiring high-quality information (scale, dynamism, mobility, irruptiveness, paucity of monitors over much of the rangelands), we think that these can be dealt with to allow the use of birds as a key component of biodiversity monitoring. We outline some of the possible options for statistically characterizing monitoring data for rangeland birds.