On Thursday, bird fanatics from around the Bay Area will gather in San Francisco to do what they do best: look at birds.
At this post-Christmas powow, avian aficionados outfitted with binoculars and scopes will trek through city parks, neighborhoods, the bay, and the woods, calling out the names and numbers of various birds they see at every site and carefully recording them. Afterward, participants will meet for dinner to tally their results.
But this isn't just a bird nerd event. Data from the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count will be used to help scientists predict how climate change will affect wildlife, according to the Golden Gate Audubon Society which is hosting the bird count along with the Presidio Trust.
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"This is not just about counting birds," said Gary Langham, Golden Gate Audubon chief scientist. "Data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the EPA."
That's because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats.
Last winter, more than 63,000 people participated in 2,200 counts that the National Audubon Society coordinated across the globe. Each count attempts to identify and record every individual bird encountered within a defined 15-mile circle -- or about 177 square miles -- during one day.
Both Oakland and San Francisco finished among the top 30 in the nation in terms of the number of species found, with 181 recorded in Oakland and 176 in San Francisco.
Here's where the bird-counters will be on Thursday: CBC circle extends from the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge to San Bruno Avenue in San Bruno. Its area includes the wetlands just north of the San Francisco International Airport, arcs west to Sharp Park, and then north to include the parks, open space, and neighborhoods of the north peninsula.
The data collected at each count are sent to the National Audubon Society. Check out the Christmas Bird Count results dating back to 1900.