Birding for Conservation
The Colorado Birding Challenge is a fun, county-based birding and conservation event held during the most exciting time of the birding year.
The Challenge was created to provide an annual flow of funds to support specific bird conservation projects.
2023's challenge funds will primarily support the determination of breeding colony locations and the critical surrounding habitat for Pinyon Jays. From 1967–2015, the population levels of Pinyon Jays fell by an estimated 83.5%. Identifying these areas is critical for long-term habitat management and protection.
2023: Pinyon Jay Breeding Habitats
Researchers Emily Macklin and Dr. Amanda Cheeseman, from South Dakota State University, have partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to identify locations of Pinyon Jay colonies and to further map areas of high-quality nesting habitat across Colorado, ensuring woodland management is consistent with Pinyon Jay recovery.
Funding from the Colorado Birding Challenge will allow them to:
- map Pinyon Jay nest locations and colony boundaries in the Southern Rocky Mountains ecoregion of Colorado — an area of high
priority and where little is currently known about Pinyon Jay colony
locations and habitat preferences to inform current and future land management activities;
- use this information and nest and colony data from CPW to map areas of potential high-quality nesting habitat across Colorado to prioritize Pinyon Jay conservation and minimize potential negative impacts with woodland management;
- develop protocols for using passive acoustic recorders to identify Pinyon Jay occupancy and potential breeding colonies that can be
used by land managers and the public.
The Big Day: 14 September 2024
The objectives of the Challenges are:
- To engage hundreds of birders in a fun day of finding and learning about Colorado's birds.
- To raise funds for a critical conservation project each year. Each year's beneficiary is announced in January each year.
- To generate eBird data for all 64 counties on the same day.
- To provide support for the expanding programs and work of Colorado Field Ornithologists.
It's a Team Effort
Teams of 2-4 members (restrictions do not apply to the non-competing category) will bird during the 24 hours within a single Colorado county of their choice. The goal is to record the highest number of species relative to a handicap value determined for the county they are birding in. All teams, other than those in the non-competing category, must abide by the ABA Big Day Rules.
All participants are asked to solicit donations or per bird species pledges for birds observed during the Challenge to help support a specific conservation project each year.
At the end of the day, every team submits their species list and CFO will calculate the par score for the teams and teams will be ranked by this score. The winning team in each of the five competing categories will be recognized in CFO communications, honored at the CFO Annual Meeting, and will receive a certificate.
Birding by Par
Not all Colorado counties were created equal. Some are large, some are small, some are urban, some are rural, some have diverse habitats, some not so much.
CFO has developed a handicap system based on a decade of eBird data that will establish "par" for each county. This par is essentially the total number of species that one would expect to find in that county at that time of year.
Teams will be scored according to the total species they observe divided by par for the county they birded. Teams will be ranked by the total percentage of par they score.
This is a novel approach and there are some obvious challenges, such as the disparity in data between heavily birded counties like Boulder, Denver and Larimer vs. much less birded counties like Huerfano, Moffat or Sedgwick. If anything, we hope this will motivate teams to select these under-birded counties!
Colorado Birding Challenge Conservation Grants
Colorado Field Ornithologists invites applicants to submit proposals to be the beneficiary of each year's Colorado Birding Challenge. Proposed projects should have a lasting benefit to Colorado birds or the habitats on which they rely.
More than $75,000 has been raised and donated for conservation efforts through the Challenge since 2021. The application period opens annually in early fall and closes in mid-November.