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Tis the Bird Counting Season

December 18, 2009

Here’s a perfect way to use your Audubon Field Guide bird app. The 110th Christmas Bird Count runs from December 14, 2009 through January 5, 2010. Last year, thousands of volunteers counted over 60 million birds on 2,124 counts placed across the Americas and beyond. Each count occurs in a designated circle, 15 miles in diameter, and is led by an experienced birder, or designated “compiler”.

The longest running citizen science program in the world, the count originally began on Christmas Day in 1900 when ornithologist and legendary birder Frank Chapman posed an alternative to an earlier traditional holiday “side hunt”, were hunters formed teams with the winner having the biggest pile of dead animals at the end of the day. Chapman proposed counting live birds to record their numbers. That year 27 people counted 18,500 birds on Christmas day. Six of the 25 counts were conducted in New England, from Keene, NH to Boston, MA and down to Norwalk, CT.

Instead of firing a shotgun, now we have an annual snapshot. Over one hundred years of data have added up to results cherished by researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. In the 1980’s CBC data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck, after which conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species. More recently, the data helped to document range shifts of bird species over time caused by climate change.

While there is a specific methodology to the CBC and you need to count birds within an existing Christmas Bird Count circle, everyone can participate! With nearly 120 counts in New England there isn’t one far from your home. If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. If your home is within the boundaries of a Christmas Bird Count circle, then you can stay home and report the birds that visit your feeder or join a group of birdwatchers in the field. If you have never been on a CBC before and you want to participate in a count this year, including feeder counting, contact your local count compiler prior to the count.

Click here for details on the 110th Christmas Bird Count: www.audubon.org

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