Bird counting might seem like a needless, time-consuming hobby, but many people look forward to it annually around the holiday season.
Thanks to the National Audubon Society, bird enthusiasts can collectively come together to count birds in their local areas each year. The Christmas Bird Count, as it’s been titled, is an event held every December. The 117th annual count is currently being held through Jan. 5.
But what is the count, and why is it held? Is it important to know the types of birds living in various regions of the country? Here’s what you need to know about the Christmas Bird Count.
It Wasn’t Always Just About Counting
If you want to go back to the early days of “counting,” hunters engaged in a tradition known as the “Christmas Side Hunt” at the turn of the 20th century. The goal would be to break up into teams and attempt to hunt as many birds as possible.
Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman recognized the endangerment of birds as a result of the practice, and he proposed a new tradition on Christmas Day in 1900. Instead of hunting the animals, Chapman recommended a “Christmas Bird Census” to count birds outdoors.
On the first ever “Christmas Bird Census,” 27 birders participated in 25 bird counts located in regions ranging from Ontario to California. About 90 species were tallied.
Everyone Can Participate
Perhaps the best part about the Christmas Bird Count today is that anyone can participate. On the National Audubon Society’s website, interested bird counters can access a map to locate an ongoing count in their local area. From here, they can contact bird count leaders and learn how to submit their information for the event.
In the end, conservationists use the data to develop strategies to protect birds and their habitats. It also helps them identify environmental issues that the birds face in their individual regions.
Counting: The Real Time Consumer
Regional editors who help set up the local counts report the data from participants. However, it takes time for the data to be reviewed and confirmed. Last year, approximately 60,000 people in the U.S. participated in the count, logging about 54.5 million bird sightings.
To keep track of the event as the data is reviewed, visit http://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/. Happy bird watching!
Koeze, Ella. “Christmas Is Bird-Counting Season For 60,000 Americans.” FiveThirtyEight. Published Dec. 21, 2016.
“History of the Christmas Bird Count.” National Audubon Society. Retrieved Dec. 27, 2016.