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Every spring, our Birdathon teams venture out before dawn and spend all day, and into the night, trying to spot as many bird species as we can. But our love of birds and birding isn’t the only reason we are out there. We are raising funds for bird conservation!

This May, Blue Ridge Audubon will stage a Birdathon that both celebrates the excitement of Spring birding in the mountains and offers the opportunity to raise funds for a bird-worthy cause.This year we will focus on efforts to learn more about Northern Saw-whet Owls, who still maintain a small breeding population in the Canadian Zone spruce-fir forests of the North Carolina mountains. These populations are threatened by the common problems of these forests like climate change, and invasive pests such as the
balsam woolly adelgid, as well as their geographic isolation. Additionally, breeding behavior, habitat utilization and movements of the Saw-whet Owls are still poorly understood.


With recent technological advances, conservationists are now able to study these little owls using nanotag transmitters and receiver stations in the Motus network. Movements of these tiny, threatened owls can be tracked in their habitats year-round, and the areas most important for their protection can be established through this


Blue Ridge Audubon's 2024 Birdathon will fund an endeavor by Wild Bird Research Group (WBRG), a nonprofit organization that studies migratory songbirds and owls. WBRG plans to take advantage of Motus receiver installations in WNC, as well as using mobile Motus receivers, to perform a thorough study of Saw-whet Owl breeding and habitat usage in the Southern Appalachians. The Birdathon proceeds will cover the netting and tagging of several Saw-whet Owls and the tracking of these owls to determine which habitats they need to survive and breed. This information will in turn yield valuable information about Saw-Whet Owl habitat conservation in North Carolina.


In 2023, Birdathon funded the purchase of VHF antennas to connect to the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. This innovative system tracks the movement of birds that have been outfitted with nano transmitters. As a bird flies within range of a Motus tower, its transmitter is identified in passing. Coverage has improved in some areas of the country, but there remain big gaps, including here in the western North Carolina mountains. We're very excited to help researchers discover more about the conservation needs of migrant and local bird species.
More information can be found on our mail-in donation form -- or simply click here to donate and be sure to select Birdathon from the drop-down menu.
Thank you for your support!

Photo by Kameron Perensovich, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Mud Creek Motus Station. Funded by 2023 Birdathon; in partnership North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission; on land owned by Conserving Carolina.

Golden-winged warbler with nano tag


What is a Birdathon?

Each spring, local birding teams compete to find the highest number of bird species in one day. The goal is to raise funds for bird conservation. Blue Ridge Audubon's Birdathon contributions support efforts to protect critical habitat for our local neotropical migrant birds.

How does it work?

A Birdathon involves teams of birders trying to see (and hear) as many species of birds as possible within a set time period. This can mean either spending the day watching feeders, walking around the local bird sanctuary, or organizing teams to scour our region for birds. Donors can sponsor a team by donating a certain dollar amount per bird or simply by donating a fixed amount. Each team generally counts between 110 and 130 species in a given day. The list of birds observed by each team is posted on our website after the teams have completed their Birdathon.

When is the Birdathon held?

As teams are trying to see as many species as possible, it's best to run the Birdathon during spring migration season and the chosen window is usually from the middle of April through the middle of May. Teams can run their Birdathon whenever they wish during this time period.

Who benefits from the fundraiser?

In past years, Blue Ridge Audubon's Birdathon fundraiser has supported the American Bird Conservancy's BirdScape program in the Central Andes of Colombia and to help reforest and preserve habitat in Nicaragua. The BirdScape initiative works to define large, priority landscapes throughout the Americas that support populations of migratory birds of highest conservation concern.

Blue Ridge Audubon is proud to support these projects.

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