The Science of Sustainability

Bay Area Bird Challenge: The Great Backyard Bird Count Is This Weekend!

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You may find a backyard-bird gem like this American goldfinch. Photo by Pamela Wertz.

You may find a backyard-bird gem like this American goldfinch. Photo by Pamela Wertz

Come on, Bay Area bird enthusiasts, here’s your challenge: let’s turn in more bird reports than Sacramento this year!  I was looking over the report for last year and noticed that San Francisco and Oakland combined reports totaled just over 100 while Sacramento turned in over 200 reports.  In the name of good fun and science, let’s see if we can beat Sacramento’s record from last year!

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a young event, only sixteen years old, compared to the Christmas Bird Count, which is 112 years old. It’s already gone international, though, with countries participating around the globe. The goal is a worthy one: to try and capture over the course of a weekend a significant sampling of all the birds wherever people find them –- especially targeting urban areas around our neighborhoods.

You’re probably wondering, “How can I get in on this amazing, easy event?”  You simply step outside into your nearest outdoor space –- your yard, balcony, neighborhood park, or even a street -– and identify and count as many bird species as you can see over the course of 15 minutes.  The GBBC website has some links to help you, from bird lists to bird identification pages.  After your short bird watching session, you can go to the website to report your findings.  That’s it. Your efforts will help us double our reports from last year!  You can, of course, watch for longer than 15 minutes and submit more than one list.

Some birds, like this non-native Eurasian collared dove, are expanding their territories.  The bird count helps monitor their presence and spread.  Photo by Debbie Hurlbert

Some birds, like this non-native Eurasian collared dove, are expanding their territories. The bird count helps monitor their presence and spread. Photo by Debbie Hurlbert

The GBBC website has some cool statistical modeling from past years which shows each reported species’ mapped presences over time in an area.  With increasing participation of thousands, even tens of thousands of volunteer bird counters, this event can be of great use to scientists and land managers.  If the GBBC has inspired you to learn more about this great hobby of bird watching, there are many places you can go to enjoy it with others or on your own.  In fact, East Bay Regional Parks naturalists offer free bird watching walks perfect for beginners or for experienced birders looking for company on various weekends or weekday mornings; check the program listings on their website.  The Audubon Society has local chapters that also offer free programs.  See the Golden Gate Audubon website for more information.

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Category: Biology, Blog

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Sharol Nelson-Embry

About the Author ()

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She's been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.