Audubon Annual Count in Central Park Finds 3,000 Fewer Birds

Eighty-three Citizen Scientists braved breezy below freezing temperatures this past Sunday morning to count birds in New York City’s Central Park, where the Audubon bird census began on Christmas Day in 1900.

Jessica Green, VP of Engagement for National Audubon Society, was among the bundled-up birders who braved the cold. “It was inspiring to see so many birders – young and old – come together in Central Park, where the Christmas Bird Count began 112 years ago. And we were just a small number of the more than 60,000 crowd-scientists who are collecting data across the hemisphere this December.”

 The longest running wildlife survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has continued through World Wars I and II and The Great Depression, providing data that reveals trends in the ecosystems we share with birds. Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change data proved birds are not Climate Skeptics, but already voted on this issue decades ago with their wings, many moving their summer ranges on average a miles north every year. Warm temperatures this autumn may have played a role in a low count in Central Park this year, which tallied 3, 286 birds – 3,000 fewer than last year.   

“Sunday’s low numbers were probably the result of both the sudden onset of cold, and the warmer temperatures in the region leading up to the count,” said Susan Elbin, Ph.D., Director of Conservation for NYC Audubon; “With no snow on the ground and open water north of the city, many birds continue to linger. The low temperatures also reduced bird activity, making them harder to spot.” Because the count continues until January 5, migration trends down the Atlantic Flyway will refine as results come in.

One bird clearly lingered on in northern latitudes later than usual; a rufous hummingbird seen near Central Park West at 81st St, near the Rose Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.   The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist at the museum, proposed that people “hunt” birds only to count them.  Chapman’s initiative was described by British actor John Cleese in this video clip from The Big Year

Last year’s count shattered records.  A total of 2,215 counts and 62,624 people tallied over 60 million birds. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, plus 107 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.            

To see a preliminary tally list for Central Park

Ten Things We Learned from Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count

Follow @AudubonSociety on Twitter  #xmasbirdcount

For images and bird songs media can download, see our Christmas Bird Count Press Room

For video b-roll of birds seen during winter