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One of the year’s biggest birding events

Winter is here, and as the temperatures and leaves continue to drop, many animals begin settling down for the cold season or migrate to their wintering areas. However, the coming of winter also brings one of the biggest bird-watching events of the year: the Christmas Bird Count. Previously at this time of year, hunters participated in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt” at the end of the hunting season. During this event participating hunters would choose sides, and whichever group brought back the most quarry won. With the growing influence of conservation, many scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations and the impact these hunts had on them. So, in 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed what is now the Christmas Bird Count as a conservation-friendly alternative to the large-scale hunting competitions.

This year the count runs from December 14 to January 5 and is conducted all over the country by groups of scientists as well as many much-welcomed volunteers of all birding skill levels. These groups cover 15-mile wide circular areas tallying every individual bird seen or heard throughout the day, providing valuable data for assessing bird population health and to help guide future conservation action. The data collected by participants over the years is one of only two databases providing insight to ornithologists and conservation biologists on how America’s bird populations are faring over time. Fun fact: the Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in the nation at 119 years old, and is run solely on donations! These donations provide support to the participants on count day, help with management of the historic database, and fund the technology that allows the data to be available to researchers. If you are interested in joining this long-standing bird-friendly tradition, head over to the Atlanta Audubon Society’s webpage and search for Christmas Bird Count under Citizen Science. There you will find a list of all the Atlanta areas covered and who to contact for more information. Hope to see you in the field, and happy birding!
Katherine Biddle
Keeper I, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl