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Christmas Bird Counts

Dec 02, 2019

In the past 50 years, bird populations have dropped by 3 billion, or 29% since 1970.  Bird counts and surveys help track their numbers and aid conservation effforts.

You can join a holiday tradition this year by getting outdoors and participating in a good cause to help birds.

The annual Christmas Bird Count is a fun holiday tradition, but is also necessary to track how birds are doing.  On a single day between December 14th and January 5th, birders and scientists across the country and western hemisphere, count all the birds seen or heard from before sunrise to after sunset.  On a count, participants go afield for one day and list the number of individuals of each species.

The results are compiled by the National Audubon Society which runs the program.  Anyone can join one of several counts across Missouri.  New birders are often paired with experienced birders in the group.  It's a great opportunity to learn more about birds and help them at the same time. These findings help with conservation efforts, congressional decisions, and when gathered together, answer questions such as, "How are the bluebirds doing?" and "What new birds are showing up?

This tradition got its start on Christmas Day in 1900 and included Missouri among the early states participating.  The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen-science effort in the United States.  It’s a unique bird census that helps birds by providing a snapshot of their winter locations. 

Data from the annual Christmas Bird Counts and the North American Breeding Survey have shown sharp declines in bird populations.  Meadowlarks and sparrows have been especially hard hit.  Mass declines in bird populations can effect pest control, pollination, and other habitat needs.

Find more details, a map, and how to sign up for this year's Christmas Bird Count.

If you can't make it out this season, you can join in a shorter, Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

Discover great places to watch birds in Missouri along the Great Missouri Birding Trail.

How does the Christmas Bird Count help protect species and their habitats? According to the Audubon Society:

  • The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. 
  • When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
  • The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. 

Learn more about the annual Christmas Bird Count.

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