This town known for the movie business, freeways and surfing may need to add another one to the list: birdwatching. With the recent release of data from February’s Great Backyard Bird Count, a nationwide birding event, comes news that Los Angeles led all United States counties in the number of reports and species. During the period of Feb. 14-17, bird enthusiasts in Los Angeles County submitted 1,270 checklists identifying 264 different species. New York’s Suffolk County came in second with 956 checklists and Fairfax County, VA, with 780.
“It’s really an impressive turnout from Angelenos,” said Jeff Chapman, Audubon California’s Southern California Conservation Leader. “Despite our county’s reputation for urban and suburban development, this level of participation shows that Los Angeles residents have a deep appreciation for birds and the natural world around them.”
California, not surprisingly, also led all states with 8,938 checklists and 364 different species, followed by New York (8,138), Pennsylvania (7,256) and Florida (5,951).
Launched in 1998 by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Because the count is designed for ease of participation, more than 100,000 people from all walks of life take part each year. Not only does the count raise awareness about birds and the environment, but it is also a valuable source of data for scientists looking to answer a host of questions about avian behavior and health.
While admitting that Los Angeles County’s large population certainly played a factor in the results, Chapman noted that the diversity of habitat in the county also played a role.
“In the 4,700 square miles that make up Los Angeles County, we have an incredible array of habitat – coastal, riverside, woodland, desert, mountain, marine as well as urban communities with bird populations,” Chapman said. “Los Angeles County is really a natural treasure.”
Chapman also noted that Audubon and other organizations that support wildlife appreciation also have a strong foothold in the area. Los Angeles County itself hosts eight strong Audubon chapters, including Los Angeles Audubon, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon, Santa Monica Bay Audubon, Pasadena Audubon, Whittier Audubon, San Fernando Valley Audubon, El Dorado Audubon (Long Beach) and Pomona Valley Audubon. Audubon California also operates the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Highland Park.
Photo of a Brown Pelican in Malibu by Michael McDonough