* To see the final totals from the 2019 5MR Challenge click here
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!  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.


  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. I’m Jealous you have any Powell Butte in your radius. It’s just outside of mine. But I get Tabor, Oaks Bottom and Whitaker Ponds, and am looking for other “unknown” spots. I say if it’s 1/2 in your radius, bird it. It meets the spirit of the rules. Am I wrong?

    2. 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. I'm in. 1201 Elk Place, Davis, CA. Any tips on how to produce a circle on Google Maps? I did this once long ago for our CBC but forgot how.

    1. Sorry I missed this question till now. I don't know how to do it on google maps, only google earth.

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

  4. Does the radius have to be centered on your home, or just in the circle? I live close to a Reservation, which is off limits (other than casual from the main road birding).

    1. Yeah, the whole point is to not travel farther than 5 miles so centering the circle elsewhere would not really work.

    2. I'm up for making it a bit off-centered. I've got a river (the Mississippi) near my home that will nearly bisect my 5mr and getting to the outer limits on the other side requires more than 5 miles travel due to limited crossings. If I move my center a bit further away from the River than I live, it centers my house functionally.

  5. 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.

  6. I'm also on the bank of a large river - the Hudson River. To get to the eastern side, I would have to drive up 8 miles to the bridge, then down the east side for those same 8 miles to get to near the center of the circle. I just don't see myself doing that.


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