Each year beginning just before Christmas, birders across Canada, the US, and parts of Latin America participate in a bona fide citizen science initiative — Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count.
The first counting event took place in 1900 as an alternative to hunting birds on Christmas Day. Now in its 118th year, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science project in North America!
Between December 14 and January 5, volunteers contribute to the early-winter bird census by counting birds over a 24-hour period on one calendar day. The counts occur in single birding circles that are 15 miles in diameter and are broken down into smaller sectors. The data is collected using a standardized approach, so participants are encouraged to join an existing circle rather than submitting their own data.
Audubon reports that more than 30,000 people worldwide participate in the Christmas Bird Count each year, counting an average of 2,400 species! Data is used by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess population abundance, trends, and distribution. According to Bird Studies Canada, the data collected by volunteers contributes to one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data. In addition to contributing to important research on bird populations and informing bird conservation efforts, the Christmas Bird Count methodology has also become a model for other citizen science initiatives.
To learn more about this trailblazing citizen science movement, visit: http://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/.
Allison is a citizen arborist, travel fiend, amateur birder, and baseball nut who lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs, Buster and Fox.