The Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), the longest-running citizen science wildlife survey in the world, will undergo several significant changes beginning this year as Audubon builds on the program’s success to entice birdwatchers to lend their eyes and ears year round. Fees to participate in the count will be dropped to encourage greater participation, and the annual published report, American Birds, will go digital in 2013, saving more trees for the birds. Christmas Bird Count information will be available online in Spanish for the first time. And in 2013, Audubon will begin to extend conservation-focused observation efforts throughout the seasons.
“We’re dropping fees, adding languages, going digital, and taking citizen science year-round,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy at enormous scales in this country. I couldn’t be prouder of the 60,000-plus volunteers who contribute each year: This is the largest, longest-running animal census on the planet, and we’re all proud to be a part of the CBC. And with the elimination of fees, we're looking forward to even more people having a role in this adventure.”
From Dec. 14, 2012, to Jan. 5, 2013, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to data that has shaped conservation and Congressional decisions.
“This is not just about counting birds,” says Gary Langham, Audubon’s chief scientist. “Data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the EPA. Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats we share, this is a vital survey of North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere.”
CBC revealed the dramatic impact climate change is already having on birds, and a disturbing decline in common birds, including the Northern Bobwhite quail. The many decades of data not only helps identify birds in need of conservation action, it also reveals success stories. CBC helped document the comeback of the Bald Eagle and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.
Last year’s count shattered records. A total of 2,248 counts and 63,223 people tallied over 60 million birds. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, plus 99 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. In Colombia, the Christmas Bird Count is a crucially important monitoring system of biodiversity in the country.
The journal Nature issued an editorial citing CBC as a "model" for Citizen Science. The count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore (which evolved into Audubon magazine) suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most small game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people count birds instead, described here by actor John Cleese in The Big Year.
To find a count near you http://birds.audubon.org/get-involved-christmas-bird-count
For images and bird songs that media can download, see our Christmas Bird Count Press Room.
Read David Yarnold’s report to The New York Times on last year’s count