Curious about joining a Christmas Bird Count?
Since the turn of the last century, Seattlites and others near and far have been gathering in flocks to count birds for the Seattle Audubon Society‘s Christmas Bird Count. Each year since 1908 novice-to-advanced birders spend part or all of one day in December calculating how many and what kind and (in some cases) the sex of birds they see in an assigned portion of a 15-mile radius area of Seattle. Not in Seattle? No worries! There’s probably a count happening near you too.
Across the country, birders meet up in parks to count together while others keep a tally of what they see foraging in their gardens and at feeders. And, a few days later all of the data is delivered to local Audubon chapters, and from there it is delivered to the National Audubon Society for use in various studies.
Why be a part of the Christmas Bird Count tradition?
Well, duh, fun! If you’re looking for a way to burn off all those cookies and gravy, joining a group outside for the day is a great way to melt those calories off your butt. Or, if you’re house-bound or just love your garden’s birds, you can even sign up to count from home with your family. Plus, whatever data you’re able to collect can make a difference in monitoring how bird populations are changing in our city and how climate change may be impacting our bird populations.
What if I don’t live in Seattle?
This event happens all across the United States each year. Check with your local Audubon chapter or the National Audubon website to find out how you can join in.
But I’m busy on Christmas day.
That’s no excuse! It may be called the Christmas Bird Count, but (at least in 2015 in Seattle) the count is happening on the day after Christmas. If you’re not in Seattle, your count may be happening on another day — before, after or maybe even on Christmas day.
The Christmas Bird Count sounds like a great learning experience for my kids.
Well, yes, but check with organizers first. If you have small children, it may be best to hang a feeder and count from home. Busy little cold bodies racing around avid counters may disrupt the birds and negatively impact the count and the experience for others. Late December can bring all sorts of uncomfortable weather, and the day can be long.
But, I don’t know anything about birds.
It really doesn’t matter how much you know. The Audubon Society is a welcoming group that invites newbies to learn from experienced birders, so don’t be shy!
Do I need special equipment?
Not really. If you have binoculars or a camera with a zoom, those really help. And, if you have a bird field guide book, that helps too. But, let’s say you’re counting at home alone and you know most of the birds that come to your feeders, you should be able to count fairly accurately. Or, use the online Birdweb site for help; it’s a great free resource. Have a smart phone? Check out all the apps to help in the field too.
How in the world do I count numbers in a big flock or fast-movers?
I spoke with a friend who was counting as the notorious Seattle crows began their evening flocking. If you’ve ever seen that happen, you probably know it would be nuts to count them individually. So, the group began counting averages as best they could. Just do the best you can and look to your experienced leaders for guidance.
What does it cost?
The Seattle Christmas Bird Count is free, however a minimum donation of $5/person is sincerely appreciated.
How do I sign up for the Christmas Bird Count?
To learn more about the Seattle Christmas Bird Count and to sign up now, visit their registration site here. Also, you may want to sign up for the potluck that follows the count. Everyone who participates in the Seattle count is invited — even if you choose to count from home.
Is past count data available to me?
Yep! Audubon.org shares count information, historical information and much more on their site.
Bird-curious, but not really into counting?
If you’re like many of our readers, you might be here because you’re a hummingbird enthusiast. That’s because we’ve got loads of hummingbird information on our blog for free. And because our founder’s been an in-demand hummingbird gardening speaker for years! So if you’re just looking for some fun, armchair hummingbird information rather than Christmas bird count details, be sure to sign up for our Hummingbird gardening notifications here today! That way you’ll be first in line when we open program enrollment. Better yet, you’ll get a sneak peek video to enjoy right away!