Interactions with nature can improve the wellbeing of urban residents and increase their interest in biodiversity. Many places within cities offer opportunities for people to interact with wildlife, including open space and residential yards and gardens, but little is known about which places within a city people use to observe wildlife. In this study, we used publicly available spatial data on people’s observations of birds from three online platforms—eBird, iNaturalist, and Flickr—to determine where people observe birds within the city of Chicago, Illinois (USA). Specifically, we investigated whether land use or neighborhood demographics explained where people observe birds. We expected that more observations would occur in open spaces, and especially conservation areas, than land uses where people tend to spend more time, but biodiversity is often lower (e.g., residential land). We also expected that more populated neighborhoods and those with higher median age and income of residents would have more bird observations recorded online. We found that bird observations occurred more often in open spaces than in residential areas, with high proportions of observations in recreation areas. In addition, a linear regression model showed that neighborhoods with higher median incomes, those with larger populations, and those located closer to Lake Michigan had more bird observations recorded online. These results have implications for conservation and environmental education efforts in Chicago and demonstrate the potential for social media and citizen science data to provide insight into urban human-wildlife interactions.
Article published in Landscape and Urban Planning.