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EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Dec 12, 2015

Christmas Bird Count starts December 14

This year’s data could be really interesting because of the ongoing, wild El Nino-related weather. Learn how to participate, here.

A male cardinal. Image Credit: Mark Baylor.

A male cardinal. Image Credit: Mark Baylor.

The Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running citizen science projects in existence—it was started on Christmas Day in 1900 and is still going strong. During the event, people venture outdoors to designated areas and count the types and numbers of birds that they see and hear. The data are used to keep track of the health of bird populations in North America. This year’s count runs from December 14, 2015–January 5, 2016.

The counts are conducted within a 15-mile wide circle, and the counts for each circle are organized by a “circle compiler.” To participate in the count — it’s free — you need to sign up with a local circle compiler at this website. As of today, December 11th, there are still several circles with open registrations available. No worries if you are a beginning bird watcher because you will be matched up with a more experienced birder.

Screenshot of circles for the Christmas Bird Count taken on Dec. 11, 2015. Image Credit: Audubon.

Screenshot of circles for the Christmas Bird Count taken on Dec. 11, 2015. Image Credit: Audubon.

During last year’s 115th Christmas Bird Count, a total of 2,106 species and 68,753,007 birds were counted. There were some unusual sightings such as Snowy Owls being spotted farther south than their typical range. A Tennessee Warbler even turned up in Peel-Halton, Ontario, Canada.

This year’s 116th Christmas Bird Count will likely yield some very interesting and important data given the unusual weather related to the strong El Nino in the Pacific Ocean. You can share your relevant photos and experiences on social media with the hashtag #ChristmasBirdCount.

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Bottom line: Audubon’s 116th Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14, 2015–January 5, 2016. This long-running citizen science project provides scientists with valuable information about the health of bird populations in North America.

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