Counting birds – for fun and science!

Robin Irizarry
Mar 8, 2016

We think Tacony Creek Park is a pretty special place! It’s an urban stream surrounded by 300 acres of forested green space running through North Philly. It’s certainly not the biggest Philadelphia park, but this urban oasis is an important natural resource for our community and the birds and other wildlife that call it home.

Our resident birds are able to find plenty of food, water and shelter here – maybe even a place to start a family. Countless others pass through the park on annual spring and fall migrations. We host bird walks throughout the year, and many of you have joined us in the park. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors, walking along the creek and exploring nature in our neighborhood.

Great blue heron fishing below Roosevelt Boulevard.

Did you know that when you join us on a TTF bird walk you have just become a citizen scientist?

On every walk, we keep a list of how many birds of each species we see. Afterwards we report those numbers on eBird, an online digital archive that birders around the world can use to log their sightings. Our bird count information is used by scientists at the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, government agencies, non-profit organizations and universities across the country and the world.

This data helps scientists better understand how different species of birds are doing, and years of counting help us track whether bird populations are growing, remaining the same or in decline. Fewer birds from year to year can indicate that those birds are facing serious problems, like loss of habitat or food sources, or that a species’ range is shifting.

Citizen scientists collecting valuable data and having a lot of fun!

In December, we participated in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the largest and longest running animal census in the world (2014 was its 115th year). In January, we participated in the 30th annual Philadelphia Mid-Winter Bird Census. On these winter counts our team braved the cold and took up the challenge to count all the birds that we could find in the entire park, over 4 miles of hiking through our woods and meadows. For our efforts we were greatly rewarded, finding new birds that hadn’t been documented in the park before. Some of the highlights were a great horned owl, several falcons and even one new bird never documented in the city of Philadelphia before — an ash-throated flycatcher! (ask me more about that sometime, it’s a great story!)

We’ve seen some great birds in Tacony Creek Park so far. Check out this eBird list for Tacony Creek Park for the full count. Looking to spot a particular bird in TCP? Check out this Tacony Creek Park bar chart to see when they’ve been spotted in the past! Notice that there are some gaps in the data? Help us fill in the missing info by birding in the park and submitting your counts to eBird!

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 9.57.54 AM
Check out eBird to find out what’s been seen in your neighborhood park!

Our Tacony Creek Park is really an incredible place in the city. The amazing birds that rely on it are just one more reason why it’s so important to keep our creek clean and take care of our neighborhood park.

Check out our calendar of events and plan to join us on our next walk! Don’t forget to check out our handy TCP Bird Guide too (para versión en español, oprime aquí­)! See you soon! Questions? Contact Robin Irizarry at

Recent Posts

Scroll to Top