8 Birds to Spot in the Christmas Bird Count

Looking forward to the Christmas Birdcount but don't know which birds to look for? Here are a few suggestions.  

Since the first Christmas Bird Count in 1900, North America has changed. Cities exploded in population and size, highways now crisscross once-undisturbed nature, and carbon emissions have really warmed up the place. This year alone is on track to be the hottest year on record. For many bird species, this natural degradation does not bode well. Conservation efforts depend on keeping a watchful eye and a careful count on threatened birds, like these eight species below. That's where the upcoming Christmas Bird Count comes in: Stay sharp for these species in your flyway.

Pacific Flyway

Tricolored Blackbird
Last week, the Tricolored Blackbird was placed under emergency protection in California. Tricolored Blackbirds used to be the most common bird in the state, but the species has suffered greatly from human activity. Since 2011 its statewide population dropped by almost half, from 259,000 to 145,000 individuals—a century ago, the species numbered in the millions. Climate change poses an additional threat to this bird as its summer range will decline by 92 percent. If you're in coastal southern California, see if you can spot them.

Black Oystercatcher 
It looks like global warming will open up some parts of the West Coast for the Black Oystercatcher. Help track these changes as they happen. Black Oystercatchers like rocky beaches and coastal cliffs though they can occasionally be found in sand dunes along the western coast of North America. They like to munch on mussels more than oysters, no matter what their name might have you believe.

Central Flyway

Greater Sage-Grouse
The Greater Sage-Grouse is an iconic bird of the sagebrush prairie. It is under siege by habitat destruction and climate change—Audubon scientists worry it could lose 71 percent of its breeding range by 2080 because of global warming. The threats extend all the way to the White House: Congress recently banned the Fish and Wildlife Service from including the sage-grouse on the Endangered Species list, a pound of flesh to avert another government shutdown. So keep an eye out for this large grouse in sagebrush habitats of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and California—your chances might soon run out. And remember, the Greater Sage-Grouse is not the same as the Gunnison Sage-Grouse!

Burrowing Owl
Agricultural development limits the range of the Burrowing Owl, since it prevents prairie dogs and ground squirrels from building the burrows where the species likes to nest. Climate change won't help the plight of this bird, so if you see one, take note! It favors prairies and grasslands, but by 2080 much of its breeding and winter range will have disappeared.


Mississippi Flyway


Northern Harrier
The graceful Northern Harrier has suffered at the hands of humans. It's not in as much trouble as some other species, but its population has declined by 30 percent since 1966 in recent years, and it could lose much of its summer range to global warming. If you're looking for this bird along the Mississippi, try your luck in prairies and drained marshlands.


Roseate Spoonbill
The bizarre, beautiful Roseate Spoonbill was once nearly hunted to extinction for its radiant pink plumage. It came under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, but has never fully recovered. Draining of coastal wetlands for development has also been a challenge for this species, and global warming will make its future unstable. You may spot this bird in wetlands in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.


Atlantic Flyway

Brown-headed Nuthatch
Deforestation, urbanization, and climate change are tampering with the Brown-headed Nuthatch's habitat. Its beloved pine trees, where it feeds and nests, are getting cut down, leaving the small non-migratory flocks with nowhere to live. By 2080, these birds may not have a suitable habitat in summer–it will likely be too hot. Look for this species in longleaf pine forests in the southeastern U.S. 



Northern Gannet
The Northern Gannet only breeds in 6 colonies off the northeastern coast. Its population is holding steady, but with the impacts of global warming uncertain and its range in North America so small, it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for this bird. They nest in rugged, isolated areas—so you're less likely to see them during the summer, but they can be glimpsed from land along the eastern coast of North America, where they sometimes hunt close to shore.