5MR Birding

1. What is a 5-mile radius list?

The 5MR is a list of birds (or wildflowers, mammals, lizards, insects, trees, etc.) that you have seen within 5 miles of your home.

2. How do I keep a list like this?

* Draw a 5-mile radius around your home (try this tool)
* Count all the birds inside it.

It helps a lot to make a patch on eBird that includes all the hotspots and personal locations that are in your radius.

My 5MR, courtesy of Google Earth

3. What are the benefits of keeping a 5MR list?

• Traveling 5 miles or less to bird means more time birding and less time driving, biking, riding the bus, etc.  If you typically drive to go birding then staying in your radius can save you gas money while reducing your carbon footprint.

• Exploring your radius will lead to finding new places to bird including places no one else birds.  Your sightings from these unbirded (or under-birded) places can be far more valuable than checklists at a heavily birded hotspot.  With more bird sightings from a wider range of locations, data is distributed more evenly, painting a more realistic picture of bird frequency.

 Snipe are not uncommon in my 5MR, but eBird data did not reflect this before I started birding the area (April 2018, Meadowbrook Marsh Park)

• There's a good chance you will find birds that no other birders would have found.  Most will be common birds but once in awhile something exciting will show up.

First eBird record of an American Dipper in my 5MR (12.02.17 Columbia Fish Hatchery)

• There is something special about seeing nature close to your home.  It's one thing to see a well-known Great Horned Owl nest at a wildlife refuge but when you stumble upon one by a strip mall in your radius?  It's downright awe-inspiring.

 Keeping an eye on Home Depot (April 2013, Mays Lake)

• When you spend a lot of time in neighborhoods and parks and sketchy back alleys close to home you start to appreciate your surroundings even more.  When you care about a place you're more likely to fight for it, whether it be through park clean-ups, phone calls to your local politicians, or planting native plants.

• The opportunity for competition!  * To see the final totals from the 2019 5MR Challenge click here. There was an impressive 5MR competition in Southern California in 2018 with at least a dozen birders competing.  There have been 5MR Big Day competitions among several of us bird-bloggers also.

4. What if I already keep a "green" or "motorless" list? 

You're awesome. Keep it up. If you combine the two you can save energy on bike-riding and focus more time on birding.

I never would have found this snoozer if I were not focusing on my 5MR

5. There are literally zero eBird hotspots in my 5-mile radius.  What do I do?

Start exploring!  Scan satellite images and find yourself some good wildlife habitat, then go out and see what you can find.  Suggest locations as hotspots and encourage others to visit.  You'll be a birding hero in no time.

 I found my current patch by scanning Google Maps images near my home and now it's my favorite place to bird!

6. I don't use eBird so how do I keep track?

However you track bird sightings should work whether it's with pen and paper or in a fancy spreadsheet.  Local bird shops often sell checklists for birds of the state or county or you can download one from the internet (like this one for the Portland area).  Those cute little ABA checklist books they sell online would also work great.

7. How can I connect with other 5MR birders?

Our Facebook group is the best place to go!  If you have any questions contact 5MRBirding@mail.com

8. How do I make a fancy map that has both my hotspots and my radius on it?

Thankfully a fellow 5MR birder, Josh Chapman, created a handy guide for just that thing.  Check it out here.



eBird Patch Tips:

If you check out your patch on eBird and click on any of the Species Totals (Life/Year/Month) you can then look at even more specific time frames. Just click on the calendar at the top and chose the day, month, or year.

This comes in handy for competing against yourself for month or year challenges. 

For fun, I recommend trying "View All" which is on the far right of each species on your list. I changed the date range to "all years" and no month specified which tells me I've observed Western Meadowlark in my 5MR 25 times and Northern Flicker 628 times.

eBird app tips:

Note: I use an iPhone (IOS) and things might be different for Android users. 

The eBird app was updated in 2020 with new Explore features. You can now easily check what hotspots are in your 5MR and even find species you might need. When you open the app click on Explore at the bottom of the screen.

Hotspots in red have been birded recently, blue have not.

Many of the settings are adjustable by clicking "Edit" in the top right. That leads you this screen:

1. "Radius from"  Click on this one to change the location. If you're at home it doesn't matter, but if you're elsewhere and want to try it just enter your address. 

2. "Radius (mi)" Choose 5! 

3. "Time period (days ago)" Your preference

4. "Target species" This is not a perfect system for finding 5MR needs, especially when your radius crosses county/state lines, but it's helpful!

Swipe back over to see the results on the map. Click on a hotspot and you will see a screen like this:

Once you're on a hotspot page like this you can go up in the right corner and click "Edit" and a new option is visible which is "Show targets only." If I choose this option then I see the hotspot with only birds I need for my Clark County Year List (which often overlaps with my 5MR needs but not always). 

Unfortunately if you're the only one birding in your 5MR the targets function is not helpful but it's still extremely helpful when traveling away from home.


  1. What if I have a park in my 5mr that is cut in half by my 5 mile radius line? Do I only get to bird half of it (Powell Butte?)

    1. Eric, in my old radius Chinook Landing was cut in half, and I did my best to stay inside the line. I only counted birds if I could see them while standing inside the radius. It would be annoying but you could make a Powell Butte personal location that only counts whats inside to make sure you're not messing up the hotspot numbers?

  2. Oh thanks for suggesting the patch tool to ID my 5MR with...that helped me a lot!

  3. How do you get the map tool to actually make the circle once you enter your address?
    There is nothing to click on that makes it happen.

    1. Just click on "New Circle" if you're using the Map Developers tool.


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