Photo: Last year 79,425 volunteer observers in the field watched for birds at feeders and other locations to tally 48 million birds observed. – Photo courtesy Alice Popkorn.
For the 120th year, the National Audubon Society is organizing its annual Christmas Bird Count. It is one of the longest running wildlife censuses in the world.
Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere.
The twelve decades’ worth of data collected by participants continue to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.
Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle, and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.
When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the North American continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
The Breeding Bird Survey is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service to monitor the status and trends of North American bird populations.
A brand-new feature for this year’s 120th Christmas Bird Count will be CBC Live, a crowd-sourced, hemisphere-wide storytelling function using Esri mapping software. This story map will ask users to upload a photo taken during their Christmas Bird Count as well as a short anecdote to paint a global picture of the Christmas Bird Count in real time.
Last year, the 119th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2,615 count circles, with 1,975 counts in the United States, 460 in Canada and 180 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands.
The first Christmas Bird Count began on Christmas Day in 1900 when Dr. Frank M. Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore which evolved into Audubon magazine, proposed a holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. Conservation efforts were in the early formation stages at that time, and many observers were concerned about declining bird populations.
For more information about a count near you click here.
– Resource: The National Audubon Society.