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Christmas Bird Count starts December 14

Group of people in winter jackets and hats, two of them pointing up.

Image via Audubon.

The Audubon Society’s cherished Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running citizen science projects in existence. It launched on Christmas Day in 1900 and is still going strong. During the event, people venture outdoors to designated areas and count the types and numbers of birds that they see and hear over the course of a single day. The data are used to keep track of the health of bird populations in North America. This year’s count runs from December 14, 2019 to January 5, 2020. You’ll want to sign up in advance.

Sign up to join the Christmas Bird Count here.

The counts are conducted within a 15-mile wide circle, and the counts for each circle are organized by a circle compiler. To participate in the count – it’s free – you need to sign up here with a local circle compiler. As of yesterday (Sunday, December 8), there were still several circles with open registrations available (the open ones are the circles shown below in yellow and green, and the red ones are full circles that are no longer accepting new participants). No worries if you are a beginning bird watcher because you will be matched up with a more experienced birder. Also, you can try checking with local nature centers in your area, as they may be hosting special Christmas Bird Count events.

Map with dense yellow dots on United States, part of Canada, running down to northern South America.

Screenshot of circles for the Christmas Bird Count taken on December 8, 2019.

During last year’s 119th Christmas Bird Count, more than 2,600 species and 48 million birds were counted, and count efforts were at a record high level. Geoff LeBaron, director of the Christmas Bird Count program, said in a statement:

The Christmas Bird Count is a great tradition and opportunity for everyone to be a part of 120 years of ongoing community science. Adding your observations to twelve decades of data helps scientists and conservationists discover trends that make our work more impactful. Participating in the Christmas Bird Count is a fun and meaningful way to spend a winter for anyone and everyone.

Small, alert bird with orange and yellow on its head.

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) can be found throughout most parts of North America. It was a featured bird in December 2019 in the Audubon Society’s Guide to North American Birds web page.

During last year’s count, two very rare species were spotted. These species included a little stint in San Diego, California, and a great black hawk in Portland, Maine. Ongoing declines in a native quail species, the northern bobwhite, were also noted across the eastern U.S.

This year’s 120th Christmas Bird Count is sure to yield additional interesting and important data that will help scientists better understand bird populations. You can share your bird count photographs and experiences on social media with the hashtag #ChristmasBirdCount. Of course, we here at EarthSky would love to have you send us your photographs too! Lastly, Audubon has developed a cool, new CBC Live tool for this year’s count where you can upload and share your photos. There are already a few pre-count photos on CBC Live – check them out here!

Bottom line: Audubon’s 120th Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14, 2019 to January 5, 2020. This long-running citizen science project provides scientists with valuable information about the health of bird populations in North America.

Deanna Conners

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