The Christmas Bird Count

There are many holiday traditions, but one that is very close to my heart is the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). We visit with friends, take a long wooded walk, and learn about the various birds in our community.

We’ve only been participating since 2013, but this holiday tradition is in its 119th year. The Audubon Society started the CBC because people were seeing a decline in bird populations.

In 1900, the Christmas Bird Count was proposed as a new holiday tradition as a means to counter the longstanding sportsmen’s Side Hunt. In the Side Hunt, people teamed up and walked the fields to shoot as many birds (non-game birds included) and small prey with the group producing the largest quantity of birds deemed winners. Now through the measures of the Audubon Society, our hunting and non-hunting friends count birds, not hunt them to help track bird populations across the globe.

Frank M. Chapman, Ornithologist at the Museum of Natural History and editor of Bird-Lore, created the event and gathered 27 other enthusiastic birders to participate in the first count on Dec. 25,1900. Ninety species were counted that first day from locations around the northeast, Ontario and California.

Now, 119 years later the yearly event attracts over 63,00 counters in thousands of locations from around the western hemisphere to participate in one of the longest running Citizen Science projects. It is easy and free to sign up and the commitment level is reasonable for those with small children.

The CBC map is divided into 15-mile diameter circles with a local compiler in charge. All individual counts are conducted on one day between December 14 and January 5. One that chosen day, all volunteers to go out and tally birds seen and heard. The data collected over the past century has helped scientists study the health of bird populations. I am not a birding expert, though I learn a bit more each year. We check our feeders each day for unique feathered visitors and hope they’ll be around for our count day.

We would be outside anyway so counting birds and learning new species is a bonus for my family. We look forward to walking our sector, bringing binoculars, recording everything that we see and taking photos along the way. To learn more about CBC and find your regional compiler, go to Christmasbirdcount.org.

.Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to www.adirondackfamilytime.com.

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