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Golden Gate Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count kicks off after a year-long hiatus

Golden Gate Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count kicks off after a year-long hiatus
Double-crested cormorant adult standing with its wings spread, drying its wet wings | Photo: Courtesy of yhelfman
By Matt Charnock - Published on December 21, 2021.

For the first time since 2019, nearly 600 bird watchers will take to Bay Area parks, shorelines, and their backyards over the next two weeks for the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

Due to the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the region’s largest bird count of its kind was postponed in 2020 of an abundance of caution. (Last December, the annual bird counting event was abruptly canceled amid 2020’s winter surge of COVID-19 cases.) But with vaccination rates on the rise and new case counts relatively stable, the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s annual CBC event is, again, in full swing for 2021.

“A lot of people got into birds during COVID, now some of them are coming to join the count,” said Siobhan Ruck, co-organizer of the San Francisco count — which is set to be held Tuesday, December 28 — to KPIX. “We have quite a few more beginners on the list this year, some of whom just started birding a year ago.”

The Audubon Society’s 122-year-old bird count is one of the longest-running of its kind. Participants double as in-the-field scientists during the watching events, providing helpful insights into bird populations, avian behaviors, observing species, and more. The 2021 bird count officially kicked off Sunday in Oakland with people scouring the city, documenting the birds they came across.

This year, too, saw Richmond added to the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s count; that survey will take place January 2. 

All three of this year’s counts attempt to record all the birds encountered within a defined 15-mile diameter — about 177 square miles — of each area the counts occur during a single calendar day. While the San Francisco county historical averages around 175 species documents, the Oakland count usually sees more than 186 bird species accounted for; it’s yet to be determined what numbers the Richmond count will yield.

But keeping the pandemic in mind, all the group's events this year will be held on Zoom.

To see 2019’s San Francisco bird count result, click here; Oakland’s 2019 bird count report can be found here.