Why more bird species are appearing in LA: Results from Christmas Bird Count

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The Vermilion Flycatcher is a tropical bird species that’s moved into Southern California in recent years. They are usually common in LA during the summer, but volunteers with the San Fernando Valley Christmas Bird Count spotted them during the winter. Photo by Shutterstock.

Every winter, thousands of volunteers take part in the Christmas Bird Count that’s run by the National Audubon Society. It’s been happening for more than 120 years. That means there is decade upon decade of data about what kinds of birds, and how many there are, in the LA area. The results give scientists and conservationists a look at their habitats and what those birds need to survive.

“We actually found quite a lot of unexpected species,” says Alexander deBarros, compiler for the bird count in the San Fernando Valley. “We totaled 14 species that we hadn’t seen in more than five years.” 

Why more species now? He says for the first time in six years, his count area didn’t catch on fire, and the frequent winter storms may have blown some birds off their usual migration course. 

DeBarros says he got interested in birds when he was in elementary school. “I’ve been birding ever since I was 10. I’m 23 now. And I found that birdwatching, it really connects you with nature, you’re always looking around, hoping to see that new thing. I found Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls in my backyard.”