SS Breeding Bird Survey

Left to right: Jay Carroll, Joanne Aasen, Judy Neuhauser, Mark Mushkat, Max Taylor, Zach Fenske, and Kaaren Perry

Each year, since 2014, Morro Coast Audubon Society has conducted an annual bi-weekly breeding-bird survey at Sweet Springs Nature Preserve (SSNP).

Volunteers: The surveys are conducted by members of Morro Coast Audubon Society. The volunteers who participated in 2020 were: Joanne Aasen, Jay Carroll, Zach Fenske, Mark Mushkat, Judy Neuhauser, Kaaren Perry, and Max Taylor. Those listed participated in at least two of the nine bi-weekly surveys. Thanks also to Elinore Cottrell, David Lamkin, and other Sweet Springs “Ambassadors” who incidentally monitored bird occurrences and breeding behaviors at the Preserve.

Purpose: The main goal of these surveys is to count and identify the species of birds that are using SSNP for breeding purposes, as well as to note those which may use SSNP habitats for foraging during the breeding season.

Area: SSNP is divided into three survey sections of approximately equal area, including the eastern section which was opened to the public in November 2017. Each area is surveyed for 30 minutes, using a modified Point Blue Bird Conservation Science area-search protocol.

Frequency: The three sections are all surveyed in a single morning. The 2021 census was conducted every two weeks, beginning in early-March and ending in late-June.

Data: In 2021 we counted 1,524 birds comprising 66 species. Based on our survey data, twenty-one species (31.8%) were confirmed breeders and another four (6.1%) were probable breeders within the Sweet Springs property boundaries. We made special note of any indications of breeding behavior including territorial singing, courtship displays, copulation, nest building, carrying food or feeding young, or the presence of recently fledged young.

Confirmed breeding species (by number of observations):
Song Sparrow, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Mallard, Tree Swallow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Anna’s Hummingbird, American Crow, California Quail, Lesser Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, White-crowned Sparrow, Bushtit, Purple Finch, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, Western Bluebird, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Red-tailed Hawk, Violet-green Swallow, and Allen’s Hummingbird.

Probable breeding species:
California Towhee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, and Lawrence’s Goldfinch.

Data Summary Reports:
2014 (species chart only)

MCAS would like to extend a huge thanks to the all the volunteers who participate in this study. A special thanks to Jay Carroll, who transcribes the data from each survey and compiles it for future studies. If you are interested in volunteering for next year’s survey, please contact Kaaren Perry, project manager, at