Christmas Bird Counts

Welcome to Golden Gate Audubon Society’s 2018 Christmas Bird Counts!

Counting at Lake Merritt. Photo by Ilana DeBare

Counting at Lake Merritt. Photo by Ilana DeBare

Golden Gate Audubon sponsors two counts — one centered around Oakland and one centered around San Francisco. Our Oakland count will take place on Sunday, December 16, 2018. The San Francisco count will take place on Thursday, December 27, 2018.

Spend a fun day outdoors with a team counting individual birds and species, and contributing to our understanding of bird populations. Both beginners and experienced birders welcome. Then gather with all the other participants to share results at a warm, festive Compilation Dinner.

Feeder Watchers

Can’t spend a full day in the field but want to be part of the Oakland count? Take part from the comfort of your home as a Feeder Watcher. Count and report the birds in your backyard. Click here for a flyer with information on Feeder Watch. Then sign up for the Oakland count with the button above and check the Feeder Watcher box on the sign-up form.

CBC Compilation Dinner

Both the Oakland and San Francisco counts are followed by a festive compilation dinner — at Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley for the Oakland count, and at theSt James Episcopal Community Room, 4620 California Street, in San Francisco for the SF count. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the dinner usually runs until around 8 p.m. While the count itself is free, the dinner costs $25. We offer meat and vegetarian options. (If you have special dietary needs, you are welcome to bring your own meal but please register online so we know how many people to expect. This year we are asking people who bring their own food to pay $5 to help cover the costs of venue rental, tablecloths, etc.)

Volunteer at the dinner! This is a way great way to take part if you are unable to spend the day in the field. We need help setting up, decorating, and cleaning up — late afternoon and evening. To volunteer for either dinner, email Noreen at

See below for officials results from past CBCs.

About the Christmas Bird Counts

Every December,  hundreds of Bay Area birders take part in Golden Gate Audubon’s Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) in Oakland and San Francisco. From before dawn until dusk, they trek through parks, neighborhoods, and wetlands, venture out in boats on the bay, and skirt reservoirs and bayside mudflats to identify the species and count the numbers of birds at every site.

Annual Christmas Bird Counts, sponsored by the National Audubon Society and conducted by volunteers, are held throughout the U.S. and Canada. The counts attempt to record every individual bird encountered within a defined 15-mile diameter — about 177 square miles — during one calendar day. The counts began on December 25, 1900, when a small group of bird lovers led by scientist Frank Chapman posed an alternative to the Christmastime “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Chapman’s group identified, counted, and recorded all the birds they saw, thus founding one of the world’s first and largest “citizen science” initiatives.  This season marks the 117th year of Christmas Bird Counts.

Fort Mason count team, by Ilana DeBare

Fort Mason count team, by Ilana DeBare

CBC data is an invaluable tool for scientists studying bird populations and was one of the key sources of data in National Audubon’s September 2014 report on North American birds and climate change.

Our Oakland and San Francisco counts have ranked among the top 25 nationwide in terms of numbers of species found. In recent years, our Oakland count has had more participants in the field than any other count in the world!

  • The Oakland count circle extends from Treasure Island northeast to the San Pablo Reservoir in Contra Costa County, and south to St. Mary’s College in Moraga and the Oakland International Airport. With its wide variety of habitats, the Oakland count typically records more than 170 bird species.
  • The San Francisco count circle includes the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco, and reaches down the peninsula to San Bruno Mountain and the wetlands north of the San Francisco International Airport. Also blessed with a wide variety of habitats, the San Francisco count generally tops 160 species.

Each count day culminates with a festive dinner where final counts are tallied and stories exchanged about rare bird sightings and locations. Local CBC data are reviewed and then sent to National Audubon Society, where they provide valuable insight into past and present bird populations and the general health of our environment. Recent and historical CBC results are available on the National Audubon Society’s website.

For a look at what CBCs can tell us about changing Bay Area bird populations, see Bob Lewis’s post on our Golden Gate Birder blog about data from Oakland Christmas Bird Counts.

For past CBC results, please see:

2017 Oakland CBC Report and 2017 Oakland CBC Tally

2016 Oakland CBC Report and 2016 Oakland CBC Tally

2015 Oakland CBC Report and 2015 Oakland CBC Tally

2015 SF CBC Report

2014 San Francisco count – blog post

2014 Oakland CBC Report and 2014 Oakland CBC Tally

2013 Oakland CBC Report and 2013 Oakland CBC Tally

2012_Oakland_CBC_Report and 2012 Oakland CBC Tally

2011 Oakland CBC Report and 2011 Oakland CBC Tally

You can also view lots of photos in the CBC albums on our Facebook page.


Looking for another count area? For the entire California list,  check out Nature Alley

Some local counts we recommend:

  • Benicia
  • East Contra Costa County
  • Eastern Alameda County
  • Contra Costa County
  • Pt. Reyes Peninsula
  • Marin