Volunteers sought for Christmas bird count

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Volunteers are needed for the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, (CBC), which enlists thousands of volunteers across the western hemisphere to count every bird they see and hear.

For more than a century, the CBC has been a citizen science tradition for hundreds of Audubon chapters and organizations. Its roots go back to around the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns—whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.

To participate in the local CBC, which starts this weekend, please contact Jerry Smith at jerrya_smith@yahoo.com.