With habitat and wild areas disappearing at an alarming rate, and global warming affecting some ranges, scientists will rely on CBC data to identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action.
"Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Birds Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed." said Dr. Tom Bancroft, Chief Scientist for Audubon. "Their observations are the foundation for Audubon's State of the Birds Reports, like our Common Birds in Decline analysis, which attracted worldwide attention and concern when it revealed precipitous declines among many of our nation's most common and familiar birds."
The holiday bird count is also instrumental in developing Audubon's WatchList, which most recently identified species in the continental U.S. and 38 in Hawaii in dire need of conservation help. The counts also reveal good news, the return of the American bald eagle, for example.
"The Christmas Bird Count is all about the power of individual action – that's why our theme is 'I Count,'" says Geoff LeBaron, Audubon's Christmas Bird Count Director. "What we do truly counts when it comes to conservation. These birds are sending us a clear message that their fate is determined by human activity more than anything else. As we've seen with the bald eagle, when we help them through conservation, their chances improve. But when we damage their habitat, convert wetlands and forests, then they are more likely to become rare or extinct."
During last year's count, nearly 70 million birds were counted in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands.
The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when the founder of Audubon magazine, Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. In 1900, Chapman led a small group on an alternative to the "side hunt," when teams competed to see who could shoot the most game. Instead, Chapman proposed they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world's most significant citizen-based conservation effort.
To join a Citizen Science team in the field, new birders must join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. New participants should contact their local compilers to sign up well in advance of December 14. To learn more about how to participate in a Christmas Bird Count new you, visit www.audubon.org/bird/cbc
Site visitors can watch results build in their area and across the Americas, as well as learn how local bird populations have changed during the last 100 years. Media can found out where counts are taking place in your area, and what birds were seen in the past.
For free photos, bird sounds, and "I Count" buttons you can download, explore our Press Room.
See the Christmas Bird Count in Central Park Count video interview with Geoff LeBaron
For TV producers: b-roll available