Indicator species concepts have a long history in conservation biology. Arguments in favor of these approaches generally stress expediency and assume efficacy. We tested the premise that the abundance patterns of one species can be used to infer those of other species. Our data consisted of 72,495 bird observations on 55 species across 1046 plots distributed across 30 sub basins. We analyzed abundance patterns at two spatial scales (plot and sub basin) and for empirical and a priori grouping. There were few significant indicator relationships at either scale or under either grouping rule, and those few we found did not explain a substantial portion of the abundance of other species. Coupled with the lack of proven efficacy for species surrogacy in the literature, our results indicate the utility of indicators and similar types of surrogate approaches must be demonstrated rather than assumed.