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Taking tally

Citizen science adds up with Christmas Bird Count

You can break up the late-season doldrums this year by volunteering with the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), a bird census that allows you to help be a part of conservation.

Administered by the National Audubon Society and entering its 121st year, the CBC gathers thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere to go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds, according to the Audubon Society website.

All Christmas Bird Counts are held between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 each year. Local counts will take place on one day in that date range, and participants can help with multiple counts.

How to get involved

The CBC is open to all and those interested can view a map of the local counts this season on the Audubon Society website in order to find a count happening nearby. Online registration is not available, so people are asked to sign up by contacting the compilers in charge of counts via the email addresses in the map’s pop-ups. All volunteers need to make arrangements to take part in advance with the count compiler.

What you’ll do

Each count occurs in a 15-mile-wide circle and is put together by a count compiler. Volunteers follow specific routes through the circle counting every bird they see or hear all day. All birds — not just species — are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

Bird watching in Grays Harbor. (Jason Wettstein/WDFW)

How the data is used

According to the Audubon Society, the data gathered by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies, and others to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past hundred years.

Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this census to assess the health of bird populations and help guide conservation measures.

CBC and COVID-19

The Audubon Society says that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect CBC participation. Depending on local restrictions, many counts will be carried out with COVID-19 guidelines sent to compilers while some will likely be canceled. The map of the local counts this season offers current information.

For more information on the CBC, visit the Audubon Society website.

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