Audubon Holiday Bird Count
2010 marks the 110th anniversary of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. During the holiday season, volunteers throughout the continent come together to count birds in their home region. This holiday season is a great time for you and your family to try something new that is both fun and rewarding. Participants in the annual bird count play an important role in the conservation of our world's birds.
The first bird count was held on December 25, 1900. In 1900 the Audubon Society was still fairly young, and the idea of conservation was very new. During the time period, the Christmas day tradition was to hold a "Side Hunt" in which participants competed to shoot the largest number of birds. An early member of the Audubon Society proposed a Christmas Bird Count as a new tradition to replace the hunt -- thus the Audubon Holiday Bird Count was born.
That first bird count took place in twenty-five locations. There were twenty-seven volunteers scattered throughout the county. These twenty-seven people counted approximately 18,500 birds and 90 individual species.
Each year's Holiday Bird Count compiles important data on the populations and geography of bird species. Over time, data from the bird count can show how bird populations are changing, including which species are in decline and changes in the location of bird species.
Scientists use the Audubon's bird count data to pinpoint environmental issues that can be affecting bird populations. The information collected is also very important for conservationists so they can determine how best to protect bird populations.
Volunteers for the annual bird count are taking part in a long tradition of conservation. By helping to collect this information in your region, you can add to the large body of information collected for the entire western hemisphere. The data you collect could be invaluable in determining how to protect rare species, in understanding shifts in population size, and in compiling larger scientific studies on birds.
About the Count
Today, the count no longer takes place on December 25. The counts now take place between December 14 and January 5 each year. The Audubon has a specific method for taking the counts. Each region that holds a count has a "count circle," which covers a specific area. Every "count circle" has a "count compiler" who leads that specific area's count. Volunteers are led and organized by the "count compiler" for the count in their area.
All volunteers are welcome, from expert bird-watchers to first timers. People with little to no experience bird watching will be put in a group that has an expert bird-watcher. During the count, volunteers face all types of weather, since the count takes place in the early part of winter. In addition, the best time to bird-watch is the very early morning, so volunteers often get to work on their count before dawn. Despite the drawbacks of weather and the early morning, many volunteers come back every year to contribute what they can to the conservation of their area's birds.
This holiday season, search for the Audubon Holiday Bird Count near you. If you want to participate in the count from your own home and you live within the boundaries of your local count, you may be able to count the birds that visit the bird feeders at your own home. To participate in the count this year, visit the Audubon's website, www.audubon.org.
Some of these counts have a pre-registration option, which can be completed online; otherwise you will need to contact the compiler for more information. After registering, make sure you are prepared to brave the weather and have a pair of good binoculars. On the day of the count, have a great time helping the conservation of the birds you love.