For the Sake of Science, Take Note When You See Birds Gettin’ Busy

Santa Barbara Audubon Society Launches New and Improved Breeding Bird Study

A mama Cassin’s Kingbird feeds her young.

Let’s say you want to trim a palm tree in your backyard, but you notice a lot of bird activity in and around the crown. You’re nervous about disturbing whatever natural things are happening up there, especially if they involve young’uns. But when does the nesting season end?

Or you are a developer and want to convince the powers that be your project won’t upset the natural balance of the area. Or you’re just a curious nature-lover who’d like to learn more about the life cycle of Santa Barbara birds.

Enter the Breeding Bird Study (BBS), a longstanding effort by the Santa Barbara Audubon Society that just received a massive technological upgrade so that it’s much more accessible and useful to the masses. It launched this summer and culminated a five-year effort in partnership with UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER).


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The new BBS Web Map Application, Audubon member Mark Holmgren explained, is an interactive way to explore the location, timing, and other key details of the breeding activity of 188 different bird species. “It’s an amazing resource,” Holmgren said. Already, he explained, Caltrans used the data to plan around the endangered Belding’s Savannah sparrow near the Goleta Slough. “It improves ability to make good decisions, and that’s what we’re most proud of,” he said.

While other California counties have put together their own breeding bird atlases, none have developed a way to so easily view, filter, and search the data, including with a nifty spatial selection tool. “Its specificity is really unparalleled,” Holmgren noted.

Thus far over its lifetime, the BBS has collected more than 9,300 observations from over 320 citizens and scientists. And breeding activity, Holmgren is quick to explain, doesn’t just mean nest construction. It also includes singing males, adults carrying food, and dependent young birds.

Find the BBS and tutorials on how to use it at santabarbaraaudubon.org.


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