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Thank you for your commitment and dedication to your Christmas Bird Count circles. This page provides materials and resources for compilers to help plan and conduct your count. To sign up to receive the results of the Christmas Bird Count and other community science efforts through American Birds, Audubons newsletter by email, click here.
View recent webinar recordings:
To donate to the Christmas Bird Count online using our secure form: www.audubon.org/GiveCBC
To download and print a mail-in donation form: CBC Donation Form [PDF]
The CBC team works virtually and has no physical program office.
The CBC email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and will be monitored daily during the CBC season.
Guidelines for the 123rd Christmas Bird Count can be found here.
File download: Compiler Media Advisory [DOC]
Following the 100th CBC, the official count period was expanded and fixed at the dates of December 14 through January 5 for all future seasons. Individual Count Compilers are free to choose a day within that period. This will help for planning in the years ahead. All counts must run within these dates.
File download: Compiler's Manual [PDF]
File download: Guide to CBC Party Miles and Hours [PDF]
Descarga de archivo: El Manual de protocolo de CBC [PDF]
The Compiler's Manual details specifics of conducting a count, including scouting, contacting participants, and data that must be recorded. In addition, we have provided one printable handout—a description of CBC effort—for compilers to hand out to participants in the field.
El Manual de protocolo de CBC detalla los metados para realizar un conteo, incluyendo la exploración de la tierra, como contactar los participantes, y una lista de los datos que se deben registrar. Además, hemos incluido un folleto imprimible — que contiene una descripción del esfuerzo de CBC — para que los compiladores se lo entreguen a los participantes en el campo.
For the first century of the Christmas Bird Count, the official count period was a floating period of time, either 17 or 18 days long, that wobbled about on the calendar from mid-December through early January. There was a great amount of confusion each season as to when the count period began and ended. And one of the cardinal rules of the CBC is that we cannot accept CBCs that are conducted outside the count period, as they are not statistically comparable with all the rest of the counts.
Beginning with the 101st CBC, and after an analysis of the date ranges within the cumulative CBC database, we expanded and fixed the dates of the official CBC period from December 14th (the earliest date that any count was included in the entire 100-year CBC database) to January 5th (the latest date of any count in the database). This expanded the CBC period from 17 days to 23 each season, and also conveyed the huge advantage of always being the same date range, much easier for compilers's planning purposes from year to year. Most CBC compilers plan on conducting their counts on a given day (perhaps the first Saturday of the count period, or the Saturday after New Years), usually on a weekend, during the count period.
For a myriad of reasons we cannot ever expand the CBC period beyond the current date range of December 14th through January 5th and CBC counts cannot take place outside of these dates.
The CBC count period in fact is still a time when birds on a population level are actively moving southward.
It's entirely true that neotropical migrant species, those that leave the US and Canada in the fall and go to Latin America for the winter, for the most part (except for those exciting rarities and stragglers that entice CBC observers out each season) are down south where they are "supposed" to be.
However, the avifauna that winters within the North American region (at least the United States and Canada) is still very much in movement through early January. Many factors affect where and how far south some species linger, especially water-dependent species like waterfowl and rails, or bare ground dependent species like Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and many other sparrow relatives. Even frugivores and insect eaters like American Robins, Hermit Thrushes, and Eastern Bluebirds are affected seasonally and can vary significantly from year to year where their center of abundance is during the CBC period. A cold, snowy fall and early winter will force these species farther southward; a mild fall and early winter will allow them to linger much farther northward, even into southern Canada. Hard early winters are greatly to the benefit (both numbers of birds and species diversity wise) of counts in the south; mild seasons hugely benefit counts in the north. Both weather-wise and bird-wise December 14th through January 5th is a time of great flux, with amazing annual geographical variation in many species. The days and weeks before and after the count period as it stands now are even more drastically affected by these types of species's annual variation.
The Christmas Bird Count has evolved to become a hugely important pool of data for researchers studying the ongoing status and ranges of bird populations across the Americas. The only other similar yardstick is the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), run during June in the breeding season. The co-analyses of CBC and BBS have become the combined yardstick by which ornithologists and conservation biologists assess how bird populations are doing--and where they are occurring--across the Americas. It is Audubon's mandate and duty to keep the CBC database as meaningful and statistically significant as possible. It was a many-decade struggle for the scientific community to embrace the CBC and other community science databases as statistically meaningful for scientific study; we must not do anything to jeopardize that trust.
During the fall of 2003 we undertook an independent Scientific Peer Review of the Christmas Bird Count, similar to that which was done for the Breeding Bird Survey some years earlier. The full recommendations of the peer review panel were published in the 104th CBC issue of American Birds and are available online here.
One of the over-arching, imperative recommendations of the peer review panel was that we never again expand the CBC period. If we were to do so that would greatly alter the meaningfulness of trend data in the CBC database, effectively ending the run of CBCs and their associated database that has been done for over a century, and begin an entirely new study. One of the largest databases in the study of birds would be terminated.
The CBC period has been expanded as far as can possibly be done. To maintain the integrity of the database, to maintain the value of the CBC to conservation science, and to ensure the value of the efforts of the tens of thousands of observers each season who volunteer their time to the Christmas Bird Count, we cannot expand the Official Count Period beyond the dates where they currently are set.
Example 1: If you reported 11 Great Blue Herons on your official count day, you cannot include Great Blue Heron as a count week bird, but you should enter "11" as the number for Great Blue Heron on your checklist. But if you did NOT see Great Blue Heron on your official count day, and did see it one day before your official count day, then you would record a "cw" in the number box of your CBC checklist for Great Blue Heron.
Example 2: If you found 11 Great Blue Herons during the count week but only 4 on count day, the number to include in your official checklist tally is 4--the number seen on count day.
The list of current CBC Regional Editors can be found here.
File download: CBC Editorial Codes [PDF]
File download: Rare Bird Form [PDF]
File download: Rare Bird Form [DOC]
The printable version of the Rare Bird Form can be viewed and printed using Adobe Acrobat Reader. A editable, Word version of the form is also available. The completed rare bird form is to be sent directly to the Regional Editor for your region not to Audubon. Click link for mail and email addresses.
Because the CBC is monitoring birds in the non-breeding season (and most species are not singing, at least in North America) the use of playback and attractant noises have always been permitted on the CBC, where allowed by law. With the proliferation of iPods and other hand-held devices that can readily play bird vocalizations and elicit responses from otherwise hidden birds, this use is reported to be on the rise.
If prudent use of audio broadcast has been used routinely on a CBC, those methods should be continued to maintain consistent counting data over time.
The use of playback on a CBC should be very judicious, and never done in a fashion that could affect the behavior of target species in any significant way.
Guidelines for the use of Merlin can be found here.
These remote sensing devices cannot be used as a method of collection of CBC data. Bird data on Christmas Bird Counts must be tallied by officially involved human observers, in designated field parties, who are not only submitting their bird data but their effort data as well.
The key factor that makes CBC data so meaningful for long-term analyses is that we collect effort data as well as the bird numbers, and thus the final results are effort-weighted. More people in a given area will count more birds in that area…even if the number of birds is stable or possibly even declining.
Species detected by trail cam photos or other remote sensing can be listed as “cw” (count week) species if they were documented during the count week. But they can never be included in the actual CBC census results for the day.
Many people submit checklists tallied on the CBC to eBird, but these *are not* flagged or automatically included in the CBC database, as there is no funded integration between The Christmas Bird Count and eBird. It is critically important that all checklists from a CBC be sent to the compiler of the count. The compiler will then review and tally all the results for their circle and submit the data to the Audubon CBC database.
Checklists in eBird that are from areas within a count circle on the count day but not submitted by official CBC participants *cannot* be added to Christmas Bird Count results. Because official CBC observers and parties on Christmas Bird Counts are coordinated in advance by compilers, and because the effort of the parties on CBCs is as critically important as the bird data for the analyses of CBC results, independent eBird checklists are not compatible with official Christmas Bird Count results.
Here's the feature on the eBird website showing exactly how it can be done, including a new Trip Reports tool for party leaders.
Unfortunately at this time we do not have an up-to-date, generic PowerPoint Presentation about the CBC program.
File download: CBC Printable Handout [PDF]
This printable handout is for compilers or sector leaders to give to participants on the day of the count. This handout covers the basics of what participants will be doing on count day and what data they need to record as they go about counting birds. The printable form is set to print two handouts per page.
Yes, we provide printable posters in English, Spanish and French through this link and social media graphics in English, Spanish and French through this link. You can download, print and use these posters to promote the CBC. The social media squares can use used in social media and on web pages.
This should print on most color printers. You will need a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader, which is free, in order to open and print these posters.
File download: Conteo Navideno de Aves - Manual [PDF]
Yes, the Spanish verison of the compiler's manual is available here.
Si, la version totalmente espanol del manual de compiladores esta disponible para su descarga, ver el enlace aqui.
Effort information is important to interpreting the bird observation data on a Christmas Bird Count. Please view the video below for more information:
We have created a 24-minute video presentation that covers the history of the Christmas Bird Count and explains how the CBC data is used. You can view the video presentation here:
As of Oct 2021, the Count Circle Sector drawing tool that was produced in 2018 is currently not available for editing sectors. We are working on a plan to make a necessary upgrade to the tool. Any sectors that were previously drawn continue to be available through the main public map of circles and sectors can be shared and printed from that map interface.
Audubon has made equity, diversity, and inclusion a strategic imperative. Protecting and conserving nature and the environment transcends political, cultural, and social boundaries. Respect, inclusion, and opportunity for people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, perspectives, and abilities will attract the best ideas and harness the greatest passion to shape a healthier, more vibrant future for all of us who share our planet.
Audubon welcomes everyone who finds delight in birds and nature. Participation in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count brings us together as a caring community of people who are inspired by birds and want to protect them.
We have prepared some instructional videos to help you with data entry:
How to log in
Forgot your password?
Forgot your username?
Post a count date
Work on a bird checklist
Manage the participants list
File download: Data Entry Manual [PDF]
Printable instructions on how to work with the CBC data entry system and complete your data entry are available above. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (free) installed on your computer to be able to view and print these instructions.
It is important to keep the names included on your participant list accurate for each season, as well as the numbers in the effort section of the online database. In this way we can make sure that folx are properly acknowledged in the online reports for all the counts on which they participate each season. Note that once you enter a name and email address you can reuse the information in future seasons. We no longer mail printed editions of American Birds to participants, so mailing addresses are no longer required and entering an email address is only for your convenience. Please also include this same information for all of your feeder watchers. If your participants wish to sign up for our American Birds eNewsletter they will hear about the results of the Christmas Bird Count and other community science programs by signing up here.
If you wish to change/add a compiler of a circle please contact the CBC administrator at email@example.com. We will need to know the following items to set you up in the system:
Circle to which you need access (name and 4-digit code)
The Data Entry Deadline is: February 28 each year The Regional Editing process is: February 1 to April 30 each year.
You can view the currently active Christmas Bird Count circles for the CBC here.
To RESTART an existing, inactive CBC circle, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details on the circle name, code (if you have it) or other details to identify the circle. We will research the circle in the database and confirm that it can be restarted. The same guidelines apply as those for starting a new circle with regard to coverage:
There must be an assurance that at least 10 participants will be available every year to do the count to ensure continued good coverage.
Want to start a new count in your area? There are now over 2500 CBCs in the United States, Canada, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the more the merrier! In order for you to start a new Christmas Bird Count in your area you will need to submit a New Count Application through the link above or below with the following information between September 1 and December 1:
While we look forward to receiving the information on your new CBC by December 1, we recommend that if you haven’t already you run a trial count for the first season before sending us the application. This helps ensure that your proposed circle is one you and your participants will be happy with for the future. In running a trial count, unanticipated logistical problems may be discovered, and you can make sure your circle includes the best possible combination of local habitats, as well as ensure you have enough participation to adequately cover the area.
When we receive your application, we will review it and get back to you as soon as possible if there is any problem. If everything is in order, you will be contacted to confirm you can go ahead with your new count.
To propose your new circle, please complete this form between September 1 and December 1: New Christmas Bird Count Application
For any questions regarding new circle applications email: email@example.com
Our goal is to have accurate lat/longs for all CBC circles in the database. Please see these instructions to find out how to report changes in your circle lat/long to Audubon.