Christmas Bird Count: It’s for the Birds!
By Ryan Reed
Well over a century ago, Frank M. Chapman of the Audubon Society proposed an alternative to an annual Christmas bird hunt. His idea, the “Christmas Bird Census”, caught on. Now known as the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), it is the longest-running citizen science endeavor, worldwide, at 120 years.
Tomorrow (12/14/19) marks the first day of the official counting season, which lasts until January 5. Occurring throughout the Western Hemisphere, counts must be limited to one 24-hour period.
Data from CBCs have been used to evaluate long-term trends in the distribution and abundance of avian populations. CBC observations have shown some disturbing trends for certain bird populations, and alarmingly, birds in general.
Human disturbance is the presumed, underlying cause for most (if not all) major avian population declines. One could reason that if humans are the cause of these drop-offs, then we can (and should) do our part to help them. A great place to start would be to participate in a CBC!
CBCs help researchers target species for conservation efforts and funding, while continuing to build on an already robust dataset. Many localized groups have annual, organized CBC events. Participants get the chance to learn more about birds while enjoying a day afield.
Wild birds are our environmental equivalent of the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”, indicating by virtue of their well-being a healthy environment with adequate habitat. Of course, the converse is true, but understanding their status by gathering data is a necessary first step in identifying populations in peril. If you’re looking for a unique opportunity to get outside and help our feathered friends, please consider taking part in this year’s Christmas Bird Count!
To learn more about the CBC, please check out the Audubon website.
About the Author: Ryan Reed is an Environmental Education Specialist in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. He possesses degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Wildlife Technology, while currently pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Pollution Control. He has also worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and taught high school sciences for 11 years. He is especially interested in biodiversity and ecology. A lifelong hunting and fishing enthusiast, Ryan resides in Harrisburg, PA. This article was originally published in the Bureau of Forestry’s Forest Fridays e-newsletter.
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