A citywide breeding bird survey for Washington, D.C.

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‘DC Birdscape’ was initiated in 1993 to systematically count the birds occurring throughout Washington, D.C. during the breeding season. It involved a coordinated planning effort and partnership between the Audubon Naturalist Society, the National Park Service, and the National Biological Survey, and engaged the participation of more than 100 volunteers. A method for rapidly assessing the status of bird populations over a large area was developed and incorporated into a Geographic Information System to allow a multidimensional analysis of species presence and abundance across a variety of urban land use areas.

A total of 91 species were observed, with an estimated total number of 115, making Washington, D.C. almost as ‘bird rich’ as nearby suburban counties. Data from the study clearly indicate that avian species are not randomly distributed throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and show affinity, at least in part, to some of the most broadly recognized land use patterns that are commonly used to zone and classify urban areas under development schemes. This study represents a prototype that will allow efficient and economical monitoring of urban bird populations.