The Golden Gate Audubon Society is encouraging Bay Area residents to keep a watch on birds flying into their backyards this weekend.
During the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, thousands of people in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties are collectively counting the local bird population over three days, starting Saturday and ending Monday, Golden Gate Audubon spokesman Mark Welther said.
"It's not widely known that a lot of what passes for science comes from people out in their neighborhoods reporting birds," Welter said. "But it makes a difference."
Welther said that participants could bird watch for a minimum of 15 minutes for their tallies to be considered.
"Part of our mission is to get people of all ages and backgrounds involved in nature," Welther said. "That's why it's short and simple."
All residents must fill out their completed checklists online by March 1. The data aids researchers in finding population trends that support local conservation efforts, Welther said.
"For instance, if we are creating an Environmental Impact Report for a work development project, the data will prepare us to say whether or not and how it will impact local populations," he said.
Welther lamented the difficult lifestyles that local species often endure.
"It's hard to be a bird in an urban area," he said. "They are constantly looking for a place to nest and feed. And, since, our area is located on the Pacific flyway, there are millions of birds stopping through each day."
But he hopes that the event gives residents a new perspective and an increased appreciation for conservation.
"We think that it helps people become aware of the wildlife and nature around them," Welther said. "And when people are aware, they are more likely to care about protecting the animals."