Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count

The Bird Count is Coming Up!

110th Annual Audubon Count Yields Data Vital to Conservation

New York, NY, December 1, 2009 – The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place from December 14, 2009 through January 5, 2010. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to over a century of bird population information.

Scientists rely on this remarkable trend data to better understand how birds are faring, and what needs to be done to protect them and the environment we share. Data from Audubon’s signature Citizen Science program are at the heart of numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies. CBC data informed the first U. S State of the Birds Report, issued earlier this year by the Department of the Interior in partnership Audubon and other conservation organizations. CBC analysis also fueled Audubon’s February report that revealed the dramatic impact that Climate Change is already having on birds across the continent.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to identify, count, and record them. These Binocular Brigades often brave winter’s chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

“When Frank Chapman started the Christmas Bird Census, it was a visionary act,” said Audubon President John Flicker. “No one could have predicted how important the CBC would become as a resource and tool for conservation. It allows birds to send us a wake up call about the importance of addressing the warming of our climate and the loss of vital habitat through action at every level.”

CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of once endangered Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

“Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Birds Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed.” said Audubon Chief Scientist, Dr. Tom Bancroft, “In addition to Audubon’s reports on the impacts of Climate Change on birds and our analysis of Common Birds in Decline, it is the foundation for Audubon’s WatchList, which identified species in need of conservation help. 

“The Christmas Bird Count is all about the power of Citizen Science” says Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director. “Our theme is ‘I Count’ because the work of tens of thousands of volunteers, extending one hundred and ten years, really adds up for the conservation of birds and our environment.” 

The prestigious journal Nature issued an editorial citing CBC as a “model” for Citizen Science.

Last year, The Economist described it as “A splendid tradition….” 

A New York Times opinion piece captured the pleasure and precision of counting: “The personal joy they experience from patiently spotting and jotting down each flitting fellow creature, exotic or not, is balanced by a strong pragmatic factor in the management of the census by the National Audubon Society.”

Counts are often multi-generational family or community traditions that make for fascinating stories. Accuracy is assured by having new participants join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle or can arrange in advance to count the birds at home feeders inside the circle and submit the results to a designated compiler. All individual Christmas Bird Counts are conducted between December 14 and January 5 (inclusive) each season, with each individual count occupying a single calendar day. 

Apply to participate www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/getinvolved.html