History of the OBA/OFO

In a state with significantly greater numbers of birdwatchers and birdwatching enthusiasts over anywhere else in the U.S., it’s unsurprising that the Oregon Birding Association (OBA) has an important presence and the OBA has gone from small club to official body with sizable grants to award.

The OBA was founded as the Oregon Field Ornithologists (OFO) in 1980; first order of business was assuming publication of Oregon Birds (no relation to this website) which had begun printing in 1975. The OBA’s name change came in 2012 and the rechristened organization currently continues with its range of duties, including assembling the Oregon Bird Records Committee (OBRC), editorial work on the still-running Oregon Birds and overseeing the Christmas Bird Counts.

Upon announcing the name change of the group, the new OBA denied the switch was due to any sort of deference to the norm, though in the 2010s, many states’ birding associations were making such a changeover and by 2018 most state’s dominant ornithology-related group is similarly named.

In October 2012, however, a different reason was given for the change, namely inclusivity: “We are open to birders of all levels of experience or training and expect the new name to give a more open first impression to possible members,” raad the official statement in part. “The new name is not meant to align or associate us with any other organization with a name that may be similar to Oregon Birding Association (OBA) or to distance us from our members who are in fact trained ornithologists.”

The OBRC is a government liaison body that catalogues species found (or even observed) within the state. These half-dozen OBA members are often called upon in an advisory or reportage capacity on questions of environmental degradation of habitats with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Always-progressive Oregon was host to its first statewide “Christmas Bird Count” in the holiday season of 1926; the activity was proposed as an alternative to the actual hunting so frequently done during the holiday season. For that first undertaking, the Audubon Society oversaw things and this organization is among the groups – along with the OjBA – helping organize various activities in the state.

According to the Audubon Society Portland, which still heads up many of the festivities in the big city, Christmas Bird Counts are “longest running community science project in North America” and as such, Oregonian Bird Counts have gotten increasingly scientific.

In Oregon, the Bird Counts take place between December 15th and January 8th, give or take a day or two on either side and each area of the state is scheduled for a different day. The OBA kicks into high organizational mode for the event with the coming of autumn and is ready in December with maps, live tracking, statistics and the proverbial much more.

Devotion to the Christmas Bird Counts in Oregon is high enough so that some 349 participated in 2016-17 *in Portland alone*, thereby making Portland no. 2 in the country among cities and Oregon no. 1 among states for the annual event.