CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT WEEK
Christmas Bird Count Week is celebrated annually from December 14 to January 5 and is a celebration of the holiday tradition of bird-watching. This tradition is well over 100 years old, and honors birders around the world who head out to count and record millions of bird sightings. On January 5th every year, the bird-sighting data is compiled and entered into a database. That data is organized by the National Audubon Society to give a continent-wide picture of how bird populations are faring, and where specific species are living. Over the past few years, the average amount of bird-watchers that participate each December – January is about 60,000, and they log around 54.5 million sightings.
“The bird is powered by its own life and by its own motivation.” -A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
The Christmas Bird Count initially began with a goal to change a different long-standing tradition, the Christmas Side Hunt. During the hunt, outdoorsmen would hunt all animals and birds they could find in a day, and whoever was able to kill the most was the winner. However, on Christmas in 1990, ornithologist Frank Chapman set out to change this and create a new tradition or preserving and counting the birds rather than killing them. Since then, the Christmas Bird Count (sometimes called the census) has expanded and includes thousands of locations across North America.
HOW TO OBSERVE #ChristmasBirdCount
Give it a try, of course! Use #ChristmasBirdCountWeek to post on social media about what the experience is like for you. The National Audubon Society organizes the bird count, so if you want to get involved, you can contact your local chapter by clicking here. No qualifications need to be met… You really don’t need to know much about birds at all. Just volunteer a little bit of your time to contribute to this year’s bird census, and you’ll learn as you go from those around you! Chances are, you’ll have a great time meeting new people, learning about different species of birds, and enjoying the beautiful winter wonderland outdoors (if you’re in a part of the continent that gets snow. If not, enjoy the warmth.) Here’s how to be sure you’ll see a wide variety of birds.
- Find food sources. Do a little research to help you understand what and when birds in your area eat, and stake out there for a while.
- Camp out in dense shrubs and evergreens. Birds enjoy those areas, especially in chilly weather.
- Check buildings like barns, sheds, and other outbuildings for evidence of birds.
- Keep an eye out for owls, especially at night!
- Keep your eyes peeled in the sunshine. Just like us, birds want to stay warm when the weather gets chilly. Areas that are warmer because of the sun are a great place for birds to hang out.
- Wake up early to get the ball rolling. Birds are active early in the morning. (I mean, the early bird DOES get the worm. Or just gets spotted by you.)
“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.” -Stephen King
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT HISTORY
The Christmas Bird Count has been observed since 1900, thanks to ornithologist Frank Chapman. It is now an annual tradition.