This will be the first time that my family makes counting birds part of our holiday tradition, though the National Audubon Society has been conducting its Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the past 114 years. This year we, along with numerous others, will be walking roads, peering at backyard feeders and looking to the skies to track birds.
Over the past few years we’ve taken steps to learn more about birds by participating in various bird counts organized by the National Audubon Society. Putting up a bird feeder is one of the things we manage to do no matter where we’ve lived. It is so peaceful watching our feathery friends come and go. We have a bird poster near the window in case any newcomer visits our feeder. Along the way we’ve learned what food attracts which birds and how to avoid the squirrels. Well, the squirrels are still a work in progress.
According to Audubon, CBC started because by the late 1800s, people were seeing a decline in bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count was proposed as a new holiday tradition as a means to counter the longstanding sportsmen’s Side Hunt. In the Side Hunt, people chose sides, walked the fields to shoot as many birds (non-game birds included) and small prey with the group returning with the largest quantity deemed winners.
Frank M. Chapman, Ornithologist at the Museum of Natural History and editor of Bird-Lore, created the event and gathered 27 other enthusiastic birders to participate in the first count on Christmas Day 1900. Ninety species were counted that first day from locations around the northeast, Ontario and California.
Now, 114 years later the yearly event attracts over 63,00 counters in thousands of locations from around the western hemisphere to participate in one of the longest running Citizen Science projects. All individual counts are conducted on one day between December 14 and January 5. It is easy and free to sign up and the commitment level is reasonable for those with small children.
The CBC map is divided into regional 15-mile diameter circles with a local compiler in charge. Compilers then place volunteers in specific areas to tally birds seen and heard. The data collected over the past century has helped scientists study the health of bird populations.
We would be outside anyway so counting birds and learning new species is a bonus for my family. We look forward to walking our sector, bringing binoculars, recording everything that we see and taking photos along the way.
Photo of bird feeder count is used with the permission of Diane Chase, AdirondackFamilyTIme.com.