Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Bird Count’

Beginning now, and continuing until early January, something amazing is happening.  Thousands of  people are going out into the world around us and participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!  Christmas Bird Counts are systematic counts that cover particular geographic areas and are repeated each year.  They have been conducted every year since 1900 making the CBC the longest running citizen science project ever.

Before 1900, famous ornithologist Frank Chapman wanted to create an alternative option to the Christmas hunting competitions that were common at the time.  It used to be that people would go out into the field and see how many birds they could kill.  Chapman wanted to harness this energy and enthusiasm for the outdoors and direct it towards something that could benefit the birds in the long term.  He decided that if people went out and counted the birds in an area each year, a valuable data set could be created and we could learn a lot about the birds around us.   To this end he organized the first CBC in 1900.  In that first CBC, a total of 27 people participated, and they counted birds in 25 different locations.  The CBC has grown tremendously since then.  In the 113th CBC which was last year, 71,531 people participated and counted birds in 2,360 different locations, and it is continuing to grow with more participants and locations expected this year.

And Chapman was right, we are learning valuable things about the birds around us.  Over 200 peer-reviewed papers have been published using CBC data!  One of the most significant findings that CBC data has revealed is the response that many bird species are having to climate change.  Of the 305 species that winter in the North America, 60% of them have shifted their ranges north by an average of 35 miles over the course of the last century.  This is generally interpreted as the birds needing to move farther north to find the appropriate foods and temperatures as global temperatures have risen.  Another prominent finding has been the tracking of the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon recoveries since the banning of the insecticide DDT.  Populations of both species were drastically reduced in the 1950s and 1960s, but with the help of ornithologists and falconers have made dramatic comebacks!

Joining a CBC is easy.  Just contact local Audubon chapters and they will have a list of CBCs in your area.  More counters are always welcome.  So go out and participate in the 114th Christmas Bird Count, and help to continue this incredible legacy!

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