Just as long-ago birds were used in coal mines to test safety, today birds are markers for the safety and health of our environment. The numbers of birds and their distribution, as well as their health, can point out trends in the overall environment. This information that affects all other living beings, including humans.
The Audubon Society has been conducting the Christmas Bird Count, a census of birds, for 120 years. The resulting data has become one of only two extensive pools of information that ornithologists and conservation biologists can reference to determine how birds in the United States are managing.
Why Bird Counts Are So Important
For people who have never heard of a bird count, or counting birds, they may arch their brows in puzzlement. However, an annual bird count is vital for monitoring population trends, as the Christmas Bird Count does. Bird counts help identify potential problems and make sharing data across organizations possible.
Scientists have recorded a 29% percent decline in American wild birds since the 1970s. Loss of habitat is the largest threat to birds today. Other threats to birds include invasive species and pollution.
See also: How Do Birds Survive Winter?
Participating in the Christmas Bird Count
If you’re a member of the National Audubon Society, you most likely belong to a local chapter that holds a bird count each year. However, anyone can join in the Christmas Bird Count.
This year’s Christmas Bird Count will be conducted from December 14, 2019 to January 5, 2020. Though local counts take place on one day during this specific date range, you can participate in as many counts as you want.
Signing Up to Participate
There is a very specific approach to the Christmas Bird Count, or CBC. A visit to the National Audubon Society’s website will give all birdwatchers a map with counting circles to find out where a count is happening near them. Looking at the map, keep in mind three basic facts – red circles are full and green and yellow circles are open for new participants. Once you locate a circle you would like to join, you will need to contact the compiler by email.
How the Bird Count Works
Each count will take place in an established fifteen-mile-wide diameter circle. Count volunteers follow specific routes through the circle. Volunteers are instructed to count every bird they see or hear all day. Though some bird counts tally their counts by bird species, the CBC is not a species tally. The goal is to tally the number of birds in that circle on that day. While it may sound overwhelming, beginning birders can join a group that will include at least one experienced birdwatcher for guidance.
If you’re interested in taking part in the CBC but don’t wish to venture far from home, check the map at the National Audubon Society’s website. If your home is within the fifteen-mile-wide diameter of a CBC circle, you can stay at home in your own backyard. You can simply report the birds that visit your feeder during the day of the count, or enter your data online at the National Audubon Society’s website. You will also be able to see the total count results there as well.
Be Part of a Vital Cause
Bird counts are an important part of environmental activities that everyone can be a part of. Helping gather this data for researchers and ornithologists takes only a few hours of your time but will reap rewards for years to come. It’s an exciting and rewarding way to be part of a vital cause and to contribute to protecting the environment for birds and humans alike.