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Birds of a Feather

Pigeons, robins, and finches are certainly no strangers to city dwellers. But when talk turns to bird conservation, most of the attention tends to be paid to the more exotic—or at least less common—avian species than to our own urban neighbors.
Yet appreciating more common species is exactly the aim of a new project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; OMCA; and Outdoor Afro, an Oakland-based nonprofit that encourages African Americans to embrace nature, the outdoors, and conservation. The Celebrate Urban Birds project encourages city residents to monitor sixteen common—but important—bird species.

A new display on these urban bird specimens is in OMCA’s Bird Lab space, located in the Gallery of California Natural Sciences, featuring taxidermied birds and artwork depicting common urban birds in their metropolitan habitats. Visitors are given a checklist to encourage them to try to survey the Museum gardens for the species and then to report their data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Scientists will then analyze the crowdsourced data to study how environments influence the prevalence and location of urban birds.

Outdoor Afro will also use this new lab space by providing innovative programming to supplement what’s in the gallery, such as organizing outdoor hikes and using the lab as a teaching tool. The hikes circle Lake Merritt, where participants can try their hand at spying birds and learning about their local habitats.

For more information on Outdoor Afro, see our interview with founder Rue Mapp, or visit For more on the Celebrate Urban Birds project, visit

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Inside Out, the Oakland Museum of California’s Member magazine.