Christmas Bird Count – Sighting Millions of Birds

Written by Taylar Ramsey, Bird-X Blogger

Here at Bird-X, we normally focus on the problems and difficulties associated with pest bird species.  However, we always enjoy taking a step back to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the overall bird population.

While there are numerous bird species that make their presence known with mess and destruction on our property, there are also many rare and unusual bird species that go unseen by the everyday person.  Even common birds show significant changes in population and distribution over time.

Bird enthusiasts will brave the harsh weather December 14th through January 5th, as this month marks the 113th Annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society.

Every year, thousands of volunteers gather from dusk to dawn for one calendar day to both count birds and identify bird species.  “Count Circles” are created with at least 10 people per group. Within that bird count group, each volunteer helps to collect data within a 15 mile diameter.  Volunteers visit parks, wooded areas, bay sides, etc. – trying to see as many different bird species as possible.

The Christmas Bird Count began just prior to the 19th century as the Christmas “Side Hunt.”  It was a pivotal time in history for the bird population, as conservation was just beginning.  Originally an annual hunting competition, all participants would split into two teams and compete to collect and bring back as many birds (and/or other animals) as possible.  Neither rarity nor beauty was considered.  The team with the highest collection was the winner.

Ornithologist Frank Chapman of the newly assembled Audubon Society proposed the idea of counting the birds rather than killing them, changing the name to “The Christmas Count.”  On Christmas Day in 1900, the original count consisted of 27 birders and approximately 90 bird species were counted.  Today, thousands of bird counters participate and roughly 60 million birds are counted each year throughout the United States and Canada.

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running wildlife census. The information collected is used to evaluate the bird population and ultimately indicate what steps must be taken next for conservation.

Wild birds give enjoyment to millions of people.  Bird-X wishes all the Christmas Bird Count volunteers good luck, Happy Holidays and Happy Counting!

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