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Four Ways to Learn About Birds This Winter

Birding in San Diego is like a party that lasts all year. Our temperate climate, protected wildlands, and extremely high biodiversity make San Diego County one of the best places in the country for bird watching. From arctic shorebirds to tropical passerines to local birds of prey, people have recorded 530 species in our little corner of the continent.

Each winter, when migrants traveling the Pacific Flyway are in town, San Diegans celebrate their feathered friends with festivals, holidays, and opportunities to contribute to bird-centric science. Here are four ways to love and learn more about our region’s beautiful birds. (No birding experience necessary!)

1. Add to a century of science for the annual Christmas Bird Count (Dec. 14-Jan. 5) 

For 123 years, people across the Western Hemisphere have donned their hats and scarves, gathered in cities and parks, and counted as many birds as they could in one dayWhat began as a Christmas Day tradition has grown into an international conservation science project that everyone is invited to.  

Organized by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count spans three weeks, but each “circle” of bird counters meets for just one day, making this census an easy addition to your holiday plans. There are six long-established circles, each of diameter 15 miles, within San Diego County. Participation is free, but you must sign up in advance. Never counted birds before? No problem! Beginning birders are paired with experienced counters. To capture as much data as possible, counting starts at the crack of dawn and continues at least through the early afternoonLearn more about the event here, and sign up by emailing the San Diego circle leaders listed here 

2. Celebrate #NationalBirdDay online to raise awareness of threatened birds (Jan. 5) 

Birds aren’t just beautiful. They belong to every single food web on Earth. Their yearly migrations connect seemingly unrelated habitatsTheir body shapes and behaviors are stunningly diverseAll this, along with their sensitivity to change, makes birds ideal indicators of ecological success and strife. There’s a reason we say canary in a coal mine, after all.  

With many bird species in decline, one of the biggest hurdles we face is raising awareness of their global importance. Celebrating National Bird Day means celebrating the irreplaceable roles birds play in our ecosystemsand our own lives. You can contribute by sharing memories, photos, art, books, research, or questions inspired by birds, or by exploring what others have to say about our fine feathered friendsYou might even find some cool conservation stories. Tune in to your favorite social media platform on January 5 and don’t forget to use the hashtag #NationalBirdDay  

3. Meet the birding community and get inspired at the San Diego Bird Festival (February) 

Did you know that bird watchers have seen 530 bird species in San Diego County? Second only to Los Angeles, that’s more than every other county in the United States. (On the days when L.A. County is ahead of San Diego, it is thanks only to wanderers turning up on San Clemente Island.) 

If San Diego is a mecca for all things avian, then the San Diego Bird Festival is the main event. This week-long fest features a variety of activities from birding field trips and bird-friendly home and garden expos to photography workshops and lectures from esteemed voices in the community. If you’re looking to get inspired about birds, this is the place and time.  

Many of the festival’s social events require registration (usually around $35), though some programs are free and others have additional costs. Learn more about the festival here 

4. Meet your neighbors in nature for the Great Backyard Bird Count (February) 

Don’t feel like leaving the houseDon’t have binoculars? Still curious about birds? Then the Great Backyard Bird Count is for you. All you need is a window, a computer or smartphone, and about 20 minutes.  

Organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count is the biggest bird counting event in the world. For four days in late February, folks from around the world watch birds from their windows, porches, streets, and favorite parks. Hundreds of thousands of people look, listen, and try to identify what they see (some starting as early as midnight!), then jot down their finds and upload them to the free eBird app or eBird websiteThe minimum bird-watching time required for this community science project is only 15 minutes, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can submit photos of your birds for the rest of the world’s participants to see. Check out 2022 results here, and find FAQ answers here 

Read More:

For the Birds: When to Trim Trees to Minimize Impact on Nests

This is Winter in Southern California

Some Birds Moving South in a Climate Changing World

The Gray Vireo: Disappearing Even from Rugged Wilderness

Posted by Cypress Hansen, Science Communications Manager.

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