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Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count starts December 14

Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running citizen science projects in existence. Here’s how to participate.

Photograph of a Bewick’s wren taken in California during the 112th Christmas Bird Count by Bing Wong. This year’s Bird Count is the 118th.

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 over the course of one day. The data are used to keep track of the health of bird populations in North America. This year’s count runs from December 14, 2017–January 5, 2018.

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 the website linked to here. As of yesterday, December 7th, there were still several circles with open registrations available (the open ones are the circles shown below in yellow and green, and the red ones are full circles that are no longer accepting new participants). 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 December 7, 2017.

During last year’s 117th Christmas Bird Count, a total of 2,636 species and 56,139,812 birds were counted. Winter storms during the first week of the count led to some necessary cancellations and a lower number of birds counted than that in the previous year. Nevertheless, it was a very successful year.

This year’s 118th Christmas Bird Count may yield some interesting and important data given the raging wildfires along the west coast and the warm weather in the northeast. You can share your bird count photographs and experiences on social media with the hashtag #ChristmasBirdCount. Of course, we here at EarthSky would love to have you send us your photographs too!

Bottom line: Audubon’s 118th Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14, 2017–January 5, 2018. This long-running citizen science project provides scientists with valuable information about the health of bird populations in North America.

Deanna Conners

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