For the 120th year, the National Audubon Society is organizing its annual Christmas Bird Count.
Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere.
Locally, Indian Cave State Park in Shubert will host a day-long Christmas Bird Count beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.
Counters, appropriately dressed for the weather, can meet at the park office for a brief discussion before counting begins.
Bird identification books will be available, but participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars.
Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world.
Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon.
Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.
A brand new feature for this year’s 120th Christmas Bird Count will be “CBC Live,” a crowd-sourced, hemisphere-wide storytelling function using Esri mapping software.
This “story-map” will ask users to upload a photo taken during their Christmas Bird Count as well as a short anecdote to paint a global picture of the Christmas Bird Count in real time.
Last year, the 119th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2615 count circles, with 1975 counts in the United States, 460 in Canada and 180 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands.
This was the ninth straight year of record-breaking counts. In total, 79,425 observers out in the field and watching feeders tallied up over 48 million birds representing more than 2600 species different species—more than one-quarter of the world’s known avifauna.
Approximately 5 percent of the North American landmass was surveyed by the Christmas Bird Count.
Last year included two new species for the Christmas Bird Count list of birds seen in the United States: a Little Stint in San Diego, Calif.,  and a Great Black Hawk in Portland, Maine.
Beginning on Christmas Day in 1900, Dr. Frank M. Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine -- proposed a new holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.
Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. So began the Christmas Bird Count.
Now, 120 years later, the tradition continues and still manages to bring out the best in people and contribute valuable data to the worldwide scientific community.
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a community science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate.
Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more.
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