About Craig, Elaine, Tiny, & Phoebe

Brelsfords birding
The Brelsfords on a recent birding trip. L–R: Elaine; Craig; Phoebe, age 3; and ‘Tiny’ Craig, age 6. (Craig Brelsford)

shanghaibirding.com is the creation of Craig Brelsford, an American birder who lived in Shanghai from 2007 to 2018. Craig and his wife, Elaine, regularly visited the major birding sites in Earth’s Largest City. Now back in the USA, Craig continues his enthusiastic development of this website.

When Craig departed China in January 2018, he was the top-ranked eBirder in that country, having noted more than 930 species. Craig was also the top-ranked eBirder in Shanghai, with more than 320 species. Craig’s photos of birds have won various awards and been published in books and periodicals and on websites all over the world. Craig’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, published in its entirety on this website, is the most Shanghai-centric field guide ever written.

A 1993 graduate of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, Craig was an award-winning newspaper editor in the United States for 10 years. Craig earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Liege in Belgium. He is a fluent speaker of Mandarin.

Elaine is from Boli, Heilongjiang. When she departed China in February 2018, Elaine was the highest-ranked woman eBirder in China, with 735 species. Elaine has a master’s in food science and engineering from the Harbin Institute of Technology.


Craig and Elaine’s son, “Tiny” Craig, was born in 2017 in Shanghai. Tiny’s first life bird was Japanese Tit, calling outside the window of Changning Maternity Hospital moments after his birth.

Craig and Elaine’s daughter, Phoebe, was born in 2020 in Orlando, Florida. Phoebe’s first life bird was Wood Stork, flying over the roof of Winnie Palmer Hospital after delivering Phoebe.

The Brelsfords live in Debary, Florida. Reach us at info@shanghaibirding.com.

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5 thoughts on “About Craig, Elaine, Tiny, & Phoebe”

  1. Hi there!

    I’m a birdaholic as well as a student studying service design , whose project is on urban bird citizen science service system. l notice you are the founder of shanghaibirding.com as well as a ebird expert .Thus , here are some questions about your experience on birding.

    According to my interview to birdwaching amateur in China , they just embrace the beauty of birds ,but seldomly upload the data on ebird or other websites. Thus , I wonder what’s the key on how might we encourage more citizens to join in those citizen science project or enhance the experience of uploading the data and getting the information.

    Following are my questions:
    1.What’ s your motivation to stick to birding and even estabilshed a website about birding?
    2.How to record such a great amount of bird species on ebird in Shanghai?
    3.How do shanghai birding use those data to futher urban bird study?
    4.How could shanghaibirding be a bird citizen science platform like ebird?
    5. I’ve noticed that bird sound is charming , can birders on shanghaibirding upload and share the bird song they encountered?
    6.Can you give some advice to encourage people in Shanghai to participate birdwatching and become a bird lover?

    I will be so glad if you read this comment.

    Best wishes,


    1. Hi Yvonne, Thank you for using shanghaibirding.com. In answer to your questions:

      1. I invented this motto: “No hobby combines science, art, and physical fitness better than the great hobby called BIRDING.” I am a former athlete with a deep appreciation for science and art. I also love language and culture. Through birding I was able stay in shape, increase my knowledge of science, and be creative. I was able to visit nearly all the provinces of China and see some of the most remarkable scenery on the planet. My photos helped me develop my creativity. My photos have won various awards and been published in magazines and on websites all over the world. Birding brought me all this success.

      2. I recorded so many bird species on eBird in Shanghai by working hard, going out a lot, and learning how to bird. One of my accomplishments was popularizing ways to distinguish between two species that look alike. By distinguishing the species, you can “tick” two species rather than just one, and you are more accurate in your birding. See https://www.shanghaibirding.com/kamchatka/ and https://www.shanghaibirding.com/pale-sak-call/.

      3. My friends, contacts, and I use shanghaibirding.com as a clearinghouse for information. A clearer picture of urban birding has emerged.

      4. shanghaibirding.com cannot compete with eBird. eBird is a giant; shanghaibirding.com is a one-man shop (with help from many contributors). eBird is the vision of many birders; shanghaibirding.com is my vision alone. eBird does not have a single author; I am the author of shanghaibirding.com.

      5. Birders cannot upload to shanghaibirding.com. I am the sole administrator. Everything goes through me. I welcome submissions. Reach me at info@shanghaibirding.com.

      6. I laid out a vision on how to promote birding in Shanghai. It is here: https://www.shanghaibirding.com/musk/

      Thank you again for using my website!

      Kind regards,


      1. Thank you so much for your reply , Craig .It helps my project a lot 😀Shanghaibirding is a great platform for me to know more about the birding situation as good as ebird👍


  2. Dear Craig,

    Thank you for such a wonderful website!

    I am a teacher at the British School of Nanjing and I have been using your website to help teach them about birds we see around our school, it’s really useful. I have used some of your photographs in my class to help them identify different bird species. We have a great campus next to a mountain and lots of different bird species. The children’s favourites are probably the Masked Laughing Thrushes – it’s very noisy when we have a flock of them.

    Excitingly we found out today that we have pair of nesting Oriental Magpie Robins in a tree just next to my classroom, my students (who are aged 6-7) have enjoyed watching the male and female birds fly to and from the nest.

    Best wishes,


    1. Hi Thomas, thank you for writing in. You could have just used my site. But you wrote in. It means a lot.

      Regarding children and birds, with a son 6 and a daughter 3, I know whereof you speak. Children can appreciate birds.

      Oriental Magpie-Robin is a versatile species, at home in habitats pristine as well as disturbed. I used to see the species in the deepest bowels of urban Shanghai. Your pair is well-suited for success, having sited its nest near benign observers.

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