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Audubon Christmas Bird Count is Underway

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, December 15, 2017

At the ANHC, we like to share projects and news from our conservation partners – one of our oldest partnerships is with Audubon. Now in its 118th year, the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), a program of the National Audubon Society, is a citizen science program and the nation’s longest running bird survey. The survey runs from December 14, 2017 to January 5, 2018.

The Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore, which evolved into Audubon magazine, suggested the CBC as an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. Still counting birds 117 years later, the tradition continues.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, citizen science is “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions” (both the Citizen Science Center and use this definition). Simply put, citizen science is exactly what its name implies – everyday citizens involved in scientific investigations.

Thousands of scientific studies have used the CBC data, including the National Audubon Society’s latest Birds & Climate Change Report. An early winter bird census, the CBC runs from December 14 to January 5 each year. Volunteers across the U.S. and Canada, as well as many other countries in the Western Hemisphere, count birds during the CBC. The program utilizes the power of these volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone.

Local compilers (trained leaders) coordinate with the state compiler to organize bird counts within their local area. On the assigned count day, participants count all birds they encounter within their assigned section of a 15-mile diameter circle. Each 15-mile count circle has a compiler and the circle is broken into sections with a group of volunteers each. Each group then tries to find all the birds in their area within a calendar day. Volunteers count the birds they actually see and hear, not the birds that they think should be there.

The amount of time that each participant gives to the CBC is flexible. Some watch a bird feeder in their own yard for an hour, while others choose to spend over 15 hours in the field. Some participants join one bird count; others join many. Birders of all ages and skill levels participate in the CBC, with beginning birders placed within a group of at least one experienced birder.

To date, over 300 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with CBC data. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.

For more information about the CBC, visit For information about counts across Arkansas, contact State Compiler Leif Anderson at 479-284-3150 ext. 3151 or email [email protected] .



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