Backyard Birding To Fight COVID-19

Eastern Bluebird photo by Dick Bruer

Birders in Alabama, like birders everywhere, are generally an outdoorsy bunch, and many of them had to be champing at the bit to do something, anything, when COVID-19 forced them to stay home.


So to encourage them to continue to bird watch while still abiding by coronavirus guidelines, and mostly just to do some good in these trying times, the Alabama Ornithological Society and Alabama Birding Trails challenged the state’s birders to Backyard Bird to Fight COVID-19.


The birders accepted the challenge by agreeing to bird in their yard only – AOS and ABT did not want to encourage leaving home – on the Saturday before Easter. The birders could solicit pledges per species from friends as well as pledging an amount per species themselves. Then on Saturday, they recorded as many species as they could identify from their yard (or within a short walk for those without a yard) at any point during the day. Participants could sign up either on the Alabama Birding Trails Facebook page or by emailing the Alabama Ornithological Society.


Participants and those who pledged were instructed to send their donations directly to COVID-related charities either in their community or others acting statewide. While neither AOS nor ABT recommended any specific charity, the majority of birders reported donating directly to a COVID-related charity, with many choosing groups who focused on feeding people.


By the end of the challenge day, 27 birders scattered from Dauphin Island to North Alabama had identified 127 species of birds and raised $1,703 for charities to help those affected by COVID-19 and its economic impact. (A few others reported on Facebook that they participated but did not report a donation amount.)


Donations ranged from $1 per species identified by each individual to $6 per species. But many of the participants rounded up their donations by a considerable amount.

Participants included: Dwight Cooley, Caila Lamont, Eugenia Carey, Jennie Stowers, Dee Gertler, Eric Soehren, Ken Wills, Greg Harber, Joe Watts, Anne Miller, Geoff Hill and Wendy Hood, Cheryl Killingsworth and Jim McMinn, Larry Gardella, Stan and Dana Hamilton, Shirley Farrell, Ken and Julie Hare, Annabel Markle, Ken and Rufina Ward, Molly Folkerts Caldwell, Don and Dena McKee, and Lisa Comer.


Several birders had “backyards” perfect for seeing a wide range of bird species – yards consisting of many acres, or yards overlooking a pond. A couple of participants live on Dauphin Island overlooking the Mississippi Sound, others near Mobile Bay. But many also lived in typical suburban settings where the species they saw focused on birds coming to feeders.


Among the 127 species identified were Bald Eagle; Osprey; American Oystercatcher; Black Skimmer; Black-crowned Night-Heron; Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Broad-winged hawks; Peregrine Falcon; White-winged Dove; and several types of woodpeckers – Red-bellied, Pileated, Downy, Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.


Warblers included Worm-eating, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black and White, Prothonotary, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hooded, American Redstart, Palm, Black-throated Green, and others.


Here is the full list:
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Clapper Rail
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Ruddy Turnstone
Short-billed Dowitcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster’s Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern

Black Skimmer
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tri-colored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Eastern Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Phoebe
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
House Wren

Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Meadowlark
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warble
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Summer Tanager

Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting