The Value of Dead Bird Watching

“The smell makes my eyes water, but that doesn’t stop Jane Dolliver from plopping down and digging the carcass out of the sand. She is not wearing gloves. Stefanie Porter, who is, stands off to the side, wincing a bit.

Slowly, a shape appears: a long bill, a billowy fleshy pouch, thin bedraggled wings, large webbed feet — a juvenile brown pelican. From the general decay and the size of the maggots and, of course, the stink, Dolliver guesses that it has been dead for several days. She hefts it out and gently spreads it across the sand. The wind is stiff and turns its feathers. “You want to measure it?” she asks.”

Read more about University of Washington researcher Julia Parrish, who founded COASST, a nonprofit that allows hundreds of citizens to serve science by cataloging dead birds on West Coast beaches, on

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