If you’re looking to take part in a fun, century-old tradition, you don’t have to look much longer. You can join bird watchers across the country for the Christmas Bird Count.
Sponsored by the Audubon Society, groups of bird-lovers head out to designated areas around the country to conduct an avian census. The information gathered helps researchers judge the relative strength of bird species here in the United States and around the world.
Before 1900, there was a holiday tradition called the ‘Christmas Side Hunt,' where teams would head out and shoot as many birds as they could. Whichever group brought back the biggest pile of birds would win. But at the turn of the 20th century, some scientists and bird observers were getting worried about the declining bird population. So an early officer of the then budding Audubon Society, Frank Chapman, proposed a new tradition - instead of shooting birds, people would count them. Chapman called it the Christmas Bird Census (CBC). There were 27 original bird counters that year, and together they tallied a total of 90 different bird species.
The CBC season runs from December 14th through January 5th and anybody can participate. Anyone interested can sign up to be part of a ‘Count Circle’ led by a Count Compiler. There are many local counts going on in the area and preregistration is available for select areas. Check for the Count Circles and the dates of the counts in your area by clicking here.
All experience levels welcome, so you don’t have to worry if this is your first year taking part in the tradition. Every Count Circle has at least one experienced bird watcher. If your home is within the boundaries of a particular Count Circle, you arrange with your bird compiler to stay home and report the amount of birds that visit your bird feeder.
There is a $5 participation fee for anybody over the age of 19, and you can participate in as many counts as you’d like.