Click here if you’re wondering: What is the Urban Birding Challenge?

I live in one of the participating cities, how can I get involved?!?!

It’s easy! The first step is to get outside and go birding (and don’t forget to ebird)! The UBC uses ebird to to keep track of each city’s bird list for the year (for more specific details on how scores are tallied, count areas, current numbers, etc. click on the “Standings” tab). Next, get inspired and inspire your friends! Get excited, browse the numbers, check out the blog, organize a bird walk to boost your city’s numbers, take a new birder out birding, and check out the city profiles to see what’s going on in other cities. The sky’s the limit, and if you want to share your experiences, publicize an urban birding event, or find someone that shares your enthusiasm send us an email and we’ll help make it happen. The point is to have fun and make the UBC what you want it to be!

What if I don’t live in one these cities?

The UBC is still in it’s infancy. We hope to expand to include any and every town or city that wants to participate, but for now, we’ve included cities (in the direct competition) where we have dedicated representatives to contribute content, and where the population is over 250,000. If your city is not on the list and you’d like it to be send us an email and we can talk about how to make that happen.

In the meantime, we will also have occasional guest blogging spotlights on birding in cities that aren’t (yet) included in the competition.



Countable Area and Species

Setting the countable area in a fair way can be tricky business. What counts as the city, and what’s too far away to be urban? We are working with each city to identify the best boundaries to create each city’s countable area. As you might imagine, this is difficult and time consuming, a task that our city volunteers and some friends at eBird are working on as fast as they can. For now, simply birding within the city proper is a safe bet, as the boundaries will be fairly close to the city limits. We’ll be posting updates on this topic as they come.

**Currently, the trackable areas vary from the actual city boundaries of some places, to entire counties, and in one case (Hermosillo, Mexico) to state level. We are using the finest scale resolution that eBird currently allows for each area. For the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom etc. the finest resolution (above city size) for record keeping is County Level, and for places like Mexico it is currently state level. This is only for the short-term; see the paragraph below.**

***The above county-level/state-level etc. tracking in the standings is only for the SHORT-TERM. We already have a solution to be able to track species within customized urban boundaries, and are working to implement this quickly, as soon as we have boundaries for each city agreed upon by the city representatives.***

Once distinct boundaries are established, all birds seen FROM the confines of that boundary (not necessarily within the boundary) may be counted. These boundaries will usually, for the most part, include city limits proper, and in some cases be expanded to include urban areas that are seamlessly connected to the city.

Countable species are those on the official checklists of states (in addition to first state records likely to be accepted by the state records committee and judged as naturally occurring). No, you can’t count that blue Budgerigar perched on someone’s fire escape, or that Cape Shelduck that’s been taking handouts on your local duck pond in the USA for the last 9 years.


Scoring and Statistics

In order to level the playing field, we’ve devised a way to standardize and (to the best of our ability) compare cities in a fair way. Basically, the “score” is the percentage of birds seen in a city compared to the expected number of birds seen in that city over the last 5 years (according to eBird). Essentially we have set a par for each city and we compare cities based on their percentage of par. In order for species to count, they must be eBirded, and validated (that way nobody can pad their locale’s list with wild rarities without vetting).

We’ll also be focusing on some other interesting statistics including the most number of species, most checklists submitted, most individuals reporting birds, and highest number of non-regular birds, along with some other less data-oriented awards, like rarest bird(s).