The year was 1900. The National Audubon Society did not yet exist and wildlife management was in its infancy. Through the century just ending, many people in this country participated in a holiday tradition known as a “side hunt.” Groups would gather, choose “sides,” and then compete to see which side could shoot the most birds (and other animals) in a day.
But some citizens were then becoming concerned about declining bird numbers. That year, American ornithologist Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore magazine and later a leader in the emerging Audubon Society, proposed a new form of hunt in which participants would count birds instead of killing them. He called it a Christmas bird-census. Chapman urged readers to help by “spending a portion of Christmas Day with the birds” and then submit to Bird-Lore a report of their count “before they retire that night.” » Continue Reading.