The National Audubon Society’s 114th Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in existence. Information from the bird count is used to track the status and health of bird populations across North America.
It’s free to participate in the Christmas Bird Count. Just visit the National Audubon Society’s website to find a group to join. Bird counts during the survey take place within a 15-mile wide diameter circle, and each count is led by an experienced birdwatcher. Most counts are located in the United States and Canada, but a few other countries in the Western Hemisphere also participate.
If you live in the Eastern Hemisphere, the Great Backyard Bird Count in February 2014 will offer you another great opportunity to participate in birdwatching activities that benefit science.
Frank Chapman, an ornithologist with the American Museum of Natural History, started the Christmas Bird Count in the year 1900, to promote the need for bird conservation. Twenty seven people participated in the first bird count. Now in its 114th year, the Christmas Bird Count draws tens of thousands of participants. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in existence.
Last year, 71,531 people participated in the Christmas Bird Count. They counted over 60 million birds of 2,296 different species.
David Yarnold, Audubon President and CEO, commented on the Christmas Bird Count in a press release. He said:
Each December, the buzz from our social network goes up a few decibels, as people with the knowledge and the passion for birds provide what no organization alone can. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy at enormous scales in this country. I couldn’t be prouder of the volunteers who contribute each year.
Information from the Christmas Bird Count is used to track the status and health of bird populations across North America. For example, bird count data are valuable to scientists who are tracking the spread of invasive species such as great-tailed grackles. These birds have been moving much farther north from Central America into North America in recent years. Bird count data have also been used successfully to evaluate the impacts of deforestation caused by insect outbreaks and wildfires on boreal chickadees. Importantly, bird count data can point out which species are in need of better conservation efforts.
Gary Langham, Audubon’s chief scientist, said:
This is not just about counting birds. Data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds [of] peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the EPA. Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats we share, this is a vital survey of North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere.
So, check out the Christmas Bird Count if you have time over the holidays. You’ll definitely be helping the birds and you’ll probably have fun, too.
Bottom line: The National Audubon Society’s 114th Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in existence.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.