Christmas bird count starts this weekend
Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 4, hawk-eyed volunteers across the continent will brave various weather conditions to count birds during the annual Christmas Bird Count. On Dec 21st, birders and nature enthusiasts in Grand Forks will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate in the longest running wildlife census on the planet.
Each year, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society mobilize over 70,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,300 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that professional scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Grand Forks will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.
“This is not just about having fun and counting birds—although that’s an important part of it,” says Dick Cannings, the Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Count coordinator. “Data from the Christmas Count are at the heart of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by government agencies throughout North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere.”
During last year’s count, about 60 million birds were tallied in 2369 locations by over 71,000 volunteers, the number of both locations and observers a record level of participation. In Canada, over 13,000 participants in 418 counts found 3.7 million birds.
The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than century-old institution.
Bird Studies Canada is recognized nation-wide as a leading and respected, not-for-profit, conservation organization dedicated to the study and understanding of wild birds and their habitats. Each year, more than 20,000 volunteers actively participate in BSC research and education activities.