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Help Count Birds for Science during Audubon’s 117th Annual Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife census in the world

Audubon Louisiana invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). From December 14 – January 5, birders and nature enthusiasts in Louisiana will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.

“Last year’s Christmas Bird Count in Louisiana tallied over 6 million birds among 260 species, including the first recorded sighting of a Pyrrhuloxia in Louisiana,” said Erik Johnson, director of bird conservation for Audubon Louisiana and the state regional reviewer of the 29 CBCs scheduled to happen in Louisiana this winter. “We are excited to see what kind of unusual birds are found this year, in addition to the annual tallying of our more expected birdlife.” 

This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Louisiana will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.

"The longevity of the CBC tradition is impressive and inspiring,” said Katie Percy, Audubon Louisiana’s avian biologist. “I encourage everyone to join the cohort of birders who are systematically counting birds this time of year, thereby making valuable contributions to our collective understanding of avian population changes over time."

To date over 200 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analyses done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related citizen science efforts are also critical to understanding how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by global warming as reported in Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Study. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades. 

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.  Dates and contact information for the upcoming Louisiana bird counts can be found here. For more information and resources about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, visit www.christmasbirdcount.org.    

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. 117 years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. And so the tradition continues.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, is available online. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more.

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